The 12 scams of Christmas: BBB presents the most popular scams to make Santa's naughty list this holiday season

December 15, 2016


Halifax, NS – The spirit of Christmas usually brings out the joy of giving for most people, but for scammers the holidays are a time of taking.

Buying gifts and donating to charities presents countless opportunities for scrooges and scammers to swindle consumers out of personal information and hard-earned money. Shoppers are encouraged to be mindful of scamming fraudsters, who unlike the Grinch, will not return your money or gifts.

 "With the holiday shopping and charitable donation season upon us, scammers are preying on people's generosity," says Peter Moorhouse, president and CEO of BBB Serving the Atlantic Provinces. "They can be cleverly disguised as reputable charities and retailers, but what they're really looking to do is swindle shoppers out of their hard-earned money and personal information. Be sure you're only dealing with trustworthy and legitimate businesses this holiday season." 

 So, in the spirit of savvy consumerism, Better Business Bureau offers The 12 Scams of Christmas:

12. Malware e-cards: Viruses and malware often travel in e-mail attachments or links. Don't click on e-mails from someone you don't know or a name you don't recognize. When it doubt, delete!

 11. Stranded grandkids: It's the classic "grandparent scam." If your grandchild, other relative or friend calls or e-mails to say they were robbed or hurt overseas, check before wiring money.

 10. Pickpockets: Need we say more? Keep your purse or wallet secure when shopping. Don't get overburdened or put shopping bags down, even for a moment. Thieves are watching!

 9. Stolen gift cards: Buy gift cards only from reputable dealers, not online or from individuals. It's easy for a scammer to sell you the card and then pull off the funds before you can even give the gift.

 8. Santa scammers: What could be jollier than a letter from Santa addressed directly to your child? Make sure the site is real and not gathering your data for identity theft purposes.

 7. Fake charities: Charities count on end-of-the-year giving, so be generous if you can. But be careful too, because scammers set up fake charities with similar sounding names.

 6. Online ads for hot toys and gadgets: When stores sell out, you may find the items online on different websites than the official retailer's- but for a much steeper price.  Some sellers will take your money and run, leaving you without the gift or money to buy it elsewhere. It's easy to mimic a real website, with logos and terminology. Red flags: http (not the more secure https), no contact information, asking for payment by wire or money card.

 5. Travel scams: With busy holiday travel, bargains may be tempting. Be cautious when booking through online ads, never wire money to someone you don't know and ask for references.

 4. Romance scams: Everyone wants a special someone under the mistletoe, so holidays are prime time for scams. Be careful with an online sweetheart who gets cozy too fast or asks for money.

 3. Puppy scams: Be very careful buying pets online, especially during the holidays. Have you heard of the recent Hairless Cat Scam? An Alberta woman purchased what she thought was a hairless Sphinx cat online, but found out she had been duped once the cat's hair started to grow back. You might also get a puppy mill pooch with problems, or you may get nothing at all because it was a scam. 

 2. Social Media Gift Exchanges: This trending scam happens on Facebook or Instagram and sounds like a great deal: purchase one gift and get 36 in return. Some people have even posted photos of the gifts they've received. However, this scam relies on constantly recruiting new participants, making it mathematically impossible to sustain. This seasonal scam is actually a pyramid scheme which is illegal.

 1. Mystery Shopper scams: A text message from a stranger entices you to take up some easy part-time work with promises of $400, or more, for every assignment you complete. In reality, it's an employment scam that uses fraudulent cheques that also phishes for your financial information, and leaves you empty-handed and with an empty wallet. 

For more tips you can trust, visit

# # #

About BBB

BBB is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behaviour. Businesses that earn BBB Accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization’s high standards of ethical business behaviour. BBB Serving the Atlantic Provinces is represented by over 2000 Accredited Businesses, which have met and committed to maintain BBB’s rigorous standards of business conduct. BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Reviews on businesses, Customer Reviews, and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. To further promote trust, BBB also offers dispute resolution services for consumers and businesses. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, over 100 BBBs serve communities across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Please visit for more information.

Media Contacts: For more information, journalists should contact Peter Moorhouse at 902-425-8357 or