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Better Business Bureau ®
Start With Trust®
28 counties covering Western Pennsylvania
Top 12 Scams of the Holiday Season
December 04, 2010

McAfee recently warned consumers of the top 12 scams of this holiday season. Typically, scammers prey on consumers during the holiday season as it’s known for a time of giving. Below is McAfee’s list with some added BBB advice!

iPad Scams

iPads are one of the hottest ticket items this holiday season. Even stores like TJMaxx and Marshalls sold a limited supply. Unfortunately this gives scammers the perfect opportunity to take advantage of consumers. Many consumers are told they will receive a free iPad after purchasing additional products and in reality they never receive any of the items. Other consumers take a quiz to receive a free iPad and then unknowingly provide personal information that signs them up for services they never purchased.

BBB Advice: Beware of deals that sound too good to be true. Consumers should be extremely cautious of low prices on hard-to-get items.

Holiday Job Offers

Many people are trying to make extra cash for the holiday season which puts them at risk for fake work at home schemes and fake job postings. Many of these jobs ask for your social security number which puts you at risk for identity theft.

BBB Advice: Before applying for a job, do your research on the company by visiting www.bbb.org. Never give your social security number to anyone you don’t know and beware of jobs that sound too good to be true.

Charity Scams

The holiday season is a time of giving which gives scammers an opportunity to solicit donations for their own pockets.

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.

Holiday Rentals

The holiday season is peak travel season as consumers visit family and friends. Scammers post fake rentals asking for consumers to wire money for deposits on listed properties. As you may have already guessed, the property doesn’t exist and not only is the consumer out the money of the deposit, but they have nowhere to stay.

BBB Advice: Never wire money to anyone you don’t know. Also, do your research on the property to make sure it exists. Ask for pictures and phone numbers of recent renters. If the price is extremely low, take this as a red flag and look for somewhere else to stay.

Fake Gift Cards

With many people giving gift cards for the holidays, scammers are having a field day with fake gift card offers. Typically through online advertisements or social media networks, scammers are trying to get personal information from those people purchasing the gift cards.

BBB Advice: Be extremely careful when purchasing gift cards online. Make sure you are buying them from a reputable site and you know how to contact them should you have any problems. Beware of sites offering gift cards for extremely low prices.

Smishing

Smishing, phishing, it’s all the same thing- an attempt to get your personal information. Beware of any e-mails or text messages from banks or credit cards stating something is wrong with your account.

BBB Advice: Financial institutions, credit cards, or retailers will never contact you asking for your personal information regarding your account. Delete the e-mails or text messages immediately. Directly contact the institution should you have concerns about your account. It’s important to note that you should not use the number listed in the text message or e-mail. Use the phone number listed on the back of your card.

Hotel and Airport Wi-fi

As many people travel during the holiday season, scammers are hacking into widely used wi-fi networks in airports and hotels in an attempt to steal personal information.

BBB Advice: Always make sure your computer has the most up to date antivirus software. Also make sure you use secure networks. If the Wi-fi you are using is unsure, do not check your bank balance or shop online.

Low Price Traps

Scammers are targeting consumers looking for hot ticket items by posting fake postings on auction sites and various websites.

BBB Advice: If the deal sounds too good to be true, it typically is. Beware of places offering prices extremely lower than their competitors.

Recession Scams

Consumers are still feeling the effects of the recession and scammers are still trying to take advantage of them. Pay upfront credit schemes and low interest loans are examples.

BBB Advice: Always do your homework before doing business with a company. Research the company with the BBB and beware of offers that sound too good to be true.

Grandparent Scam, or Help! I’ve Been Robbed

Con artists scam grandparents and family members by stating they have been robbed and are in need of money. That wired money goes right into the scammers hands.

BBB Advice: Never wire money to anyone you don’t know. Also, if you receive a call from a distressed family member, make sure you ask personal questions to verify their identity.

Dangerous Holiday Downloads

Scammers spread viruses through downloadable holiday screensavers and pictures.

BBB Advice: Always make sure your computer is protected with the most up-to-date antivirus software. Also avoid downloading items from people you don’t know.

Harmful Holiday Greetings

Just like the dangerous holiday downloads, scammers send holiday greetings with links to viruses and malware.

BBB Advice: Always make sure your computer is protected with the most up-to-date antivirus software. Also avoid downloading items from people you don’t know. If an e-mail seems suspicious, delete it!

Your BBB wishes everyone a safe and happy holiday season!