Top Holiday Scams

December 20, 2013

Better Business Bureau serving Eastern North Carolina warns consumers to beware of the following scams and frauds this holiday season.

Malware E-cards. E-cards are often used by scammers as a disguise for phishing e-mails. With typical e-cards, the recipients receive an e-mail with a hyperlink that will take users to the e-cards, which are housed on web sites. Unfortunately, this is an easy way for scam artists to direct consumers to their web sites, which may install a virus on their computers. Consumers can test links by using their mouse to hover over them and viewing the destination link.

Package Delivery Scam. Scam artists send phishing e-mails, with phony tracking numbers, from shipping companies claiming that there is a problem with delivery of merchandise. The e-mails instruct consumers to open an attachment to print out the correct delivery label. Upon opening the attachment, their computers are infected with malware. The scammers often impersonate well-known companies,including UPS and FedEx, in order to steal personal information. If you are unsure if the e-mail is legitimate, contact the delivery company directly before opening the attachment.

Bogus Charitable Pleas. The holidays are a time of giving, which also creates an opportunity for scam artists to set up phony charities. Many scam artists will use names that closely resemble the names of well-known organizations and set-up phony donations web sites. Always verify that the organization you are donating to is legitimate by visiting

Counterfeit Gifts. Every holiday season, BBB hears from shoppers who paid for supposedly great deals online, but received nothing in return. Low prices on luxurious goods are often cheap counterfeits. BBB recommends purchasing goods directly from manufacturers or major known retailers. Whenever you are asked to provide sensitive information, such as bank account or credit card information, make sure the address bar shows ‘https’ rather than just ‘http’ which indicates that the web browser is secure.

Gift Card Scam. If you are buying gift cards for someone this holiday season, make sure you are buying from reputable dealers. It is easy for scammers to sell you a card and then use the funds before you even have the chance to give the card as a gift. In another common gift card scam, consumers receive text messages or e-mails from popular retailers saying they have won a gift card. BBB advises consumers to not respond to these text messages, as they are a ploy to get consumers to reveal personal information.

Fictitious Pets. BBB warns consumers to use caution when purchasing a pet online, as scam artists often pose as breeders who are willing to ship a pet to you just in time for the holidays. The scam artists often post a picture of a puppy on classified sites, such as Craigslist, and then ask the interested buyer to wire them money for the pet and the airfare. Once consumers wire the money,the scam artists disappear and the consumers never receive the pet.