Love may be in the air this Valentine's Day, but so are scammers who love to take advantage.
FRESNO, Calif. - Love may be in the air this Valentine's Day, but so are scammers who love to take advantage. In 2016 consumers spent $19.7 billion dollars on Valentine's Day- up from $18.9 billion in 2015- making Valentine's Day one of the top 3 consumer spending holidays.
With all that spending scammers are sure to try and cash in. Better Business Bureau Serving Central California & Inland Empire Counties offers these tips to avoid falling victim to a Valentine's Day scam.
Flowers: According to Prince & Prince, a leader in market research, $3.3 billion is expected to be spent on flowers this Valentine's Day, which holds steady from 2016. This includes all fresh floral products and any associated delivery/handling service fee. According to Prince & Prince, Valentine's Day is the second largest "floral holiday" in terms of consumer spending, and scammers are sure to take notice. In 2016, consumers searched for an accredited florist over 500 times. Before you submit that Valentine's Day order you should not only do the same, but keep these tips in mind as well:
- Make sure you order early and allow enough time for shipping. Also, verify with the florist the date and time is guaranteed beforehand.
- Obtain a receipt and ask about the stores refund policy. Ask what would happen if the flowers were late or never show up, and make sure the policy is clearly listed.
- Verify the florist's actual street address and phone number in case you do need to adjust your order.
- Pay with your credit card if possible, that way if there is a problem with your delivery (like them not showing up at all) you can dispute the charges with your credit card company if you are unable to resolve it with the florist you purchased through.
Jewelry: In 2016, BBB received over 5,100 inquiries from consumers searching for trustworthy jewelers. According to the National Retail Federation, consumers are predicted to spend approximately 4.3 billion on jewelry sales for Valentine's Day. BBB recommends you check out an accredited jewelry store in your area that you can trust before doing businesses with them as well as:
- Research the type of jewelry you want and educate yourself on the industry. A diamonds value is based on the four C's - cut, caret, clarity and color. The more you know about the product the harder it is to get scammed.
- Ask friends and family for recommendations on who they do business with, or if they've heard anything about the jeweler where you want to shop at.
- Ask for the stores refund and return policy beforehand, and make sure it is clearly listed somewhere - like your receipt.
Phishing/Delivery Emails: Phishing emails are a popular scam any time of the year, but as we get closer to Valentine's Day, expect them to increase. Here are some common ones to look out for:
- You may receive an email from a floral shop asking you to log in and re-enter your credit card information or else they won't be delivered. Once you log in you just exposed your credit card information to scammers. Call the company directly if you receive such email.
- You may receive an email about a package you didn't send or a delivery you didn't expect. If you receive an email of this type don't open it, especially if it asks you to download something or click to a separate link. That email may be riddled with viruses you just downloaded onto your computer. You should be able to successfully send and receive Valentine's Day gifts without having to correspond with the company through email.
Catfishing: Catfishing is posing as someone else online to fool a person. Many times those doing the fishing are after your money. The season of love is the perfect time for scammers to prey on those feeling sad about spending Valentine's Day alone; but beware! BBB recommends you ignore anyone who:
- Asks to talk outside email or messaging service on the dating site. This allows the fraudster to carry out the scam without the dating site having record of the encounter.
- Almost immediately declares love for you without ever meeting you or knowing anything about you.
- Finds excuses for not meeting with you or even video chatting with you over Facetime or Skype.
- Claims to be from this country but is currently traveling, living, or working abroad. Be cautious when they claim to have been called away suddenly or say they are in the military stationed overseas.
- Asks for your credit card information or money for an "emergency" like a sick relative, stolen wallet, or they need help with an emergency finance. They may ask you to wire money which starts out with a small amount then always increases. They may also ask for airfare to come visit you. They may promise you a lot, but the promises are always empty and once your money is gone so are they.
Gift Cards: Gift cards are always a popular gift with consumers planning to spend around $1.4 billion on gift cards/gift certificates this year. Depending on where you purchased your gift card, it may be hard to prove you were victim of a scam. Here are some tips on how to protect yourself:
- Carefully examine the gift card before you purchase it. If you notice the packaging is tampered with, or if the PIN number is exposed, put the card back and grab another one.
- Try and grab a gift card stored by the counter. If it is on an open rack a scammer can easily gain access to the card before you buy it, and once you purchase it and load money, the scammer can use the cards value before you are able to redeem it.
- Keep your receipt as long as money is stored on the card. Some retailers can track where the gift card was purchased, activated and used. They may be able to replace the card for you with a present receipt.
Some other tips to keep in mind when ordering online is to make sure the website is in https form (the extra s is for secure) and the lock symbol is shown. Also, whenever possible, make your purchases with a credit card instead of your banking card. If you run into a problem with the company you may be able to dispute the charges with your bank.
If you do business with a problematic company this Valentine's Day feel free to file a complaint with BBB using our complaint resolution center. Before doing any business with someone this Valentine's Day, check with BBB first.
To learn more about romance scams provided by the Council of Better Business Bureau's, click here.
About BBB: For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2015, people turned to BBB more than 172 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 13,000 scams reported through Scam Tracker, all available for free at bbb.org. BBB Serving Central California & Inland Empire Counties was founded in 1951 and serves Fresno, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, Mono, Tulare, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.