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Better Business Bureau ®
Start With Trust®
28 counties covering Western Pennsylvania
Tis’ the Season for Holiday Scams
December 11, 2010

Pittsburgh, PA – December 6, 2010 – The holidays are a happy time for food, family, and friendship, but they are also a time for fraud. Consumers can fall into any number of traps over the holidays and become victim to identity thieves, hackers and deceptive merchants online. The Better Business Bureau is warning holiday shoppers and donors to look out for five common scams this season.

“While the rest of us are pulling the decorations out of the attic, scammers are blowing the dust off of their tried and true holiday scams,” said Becky Maier, BBB spokesperson. “We can all help make these holiday scams a ghost of Christmas’ past by not falling for them anymore.”

BBB recommends being on the lookout for the following scams this holiday season:

Scam shopping sites online

We’re all looking for a great deal online, but some sites offer electronics or luxury goods at prices that are too good to be true. Every holiday season BBB hears from holiday shoppers who paid for a supposedly great deal online, but received nothing in return.

BBB advice: Always look for the BBB seal when shopping online and click on the seal to confirm it is legitimate. When shopping on sites that you aren’t household names, check the business out with the BBB before you buy.

Finding the season’s hottest toys and gadgets online

Every year, holiday shoppers fight over the “must have” toy or gadget of the season. When the item is sold out in stores, you can often find it online through sites like Craigslist or eBay—for a much steeper price. The problem is that some sellers will take your money and run.

BBB Advice: Shop locally and conduct the transaction in person—never wire money as payment. When purchasing items on auctions like eBay, research the seller extensively and always listen to your doubts if the deal doesn’t sound legit.

Identity theft at the mall

While you’re struggling at the mall with bags of presents, identity thieves see an opportunity to steal your wallet and debit or credit card numbers.

BBB Advice: Don’t let yourself get bogged down in purchases and lose track of your wallet. Know where your credit and debit cards are at all times and cover the keypad when entering your pin number while purchasing items or getting money from the ATM.

Bogus charitable pleas

The holidays are a time of giving which creates a great opportunity for scammers to solicit donations to line their own pockets. Also beware of solicitations from charities that don’t necessarily deliver on their promises or are ill-equipped to carry through on their plans.

BBB Advice: Always research a charity with the BBB Wise Giving Alliance to see if the charity meets the 20 Standards for Charity Accountability and check to verify a charity is registered with your state’s Department of Charities before you give.

Phishing e-mails – Phishing e-mails are a common way for hackers to get at your personal information or break into your computer. Common phishing e-mails around the holidays include e-cards and messages pretending to be from companies like UPS or Fedex with links to package tracking information.

BBB Advice: Don’t click on any links or open any attachments to e-mails until you have confirmed that they are not malicious. E-mail addresses that don’t match up, typos and grammatical mistakes are common red flags of a malicious phishing e-mail. Also beware of unsolicited e-mails from companies with which you have no association. Make sure you have current antivirus software and that all security patches have been installed on the computer.

For more advice on being a savvy consumer this holiday season, go to BBB’s Helpful Holiday Tips.

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About the BBB System

BBB is an unbiased organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Businesses that earn BBB accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization’s high standards of ethical business behavior. BBB provides objective advice, free business BBB Reliability ReportsTM and charity BBB Wise Giving ReportsTM, and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. To further promote trust, BBB also offers complaint and dispute resolution support for consumers and businesses when there is difference in viewpoints. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, 128 BBBs serve communities across the U.S. and Canada, evaluating and monitoring more than 4 million local and national businesses and charities. Please visit www.bbb.org for more information about the BBB System.