4th of July Scam Prevention

July 01, 2014

Roanoke, VA  – The 4th of July is right around the corner, with backyard barbeques, fireworks, and celebrations of the Red, White, and Blue. Unfortunately, holidays often inspire scam artists who will try to take advantage of consumers and ruin holiday plans.

Below are some of the most common 4th of July scams:

Deceptive Deals
Holidays always bring sales but in the rush to "act now or miss out," it’s easy to purchase something without reading the fine print. Be extra careful when shopping online. Fake retail websites are a popular scam around any holiday. Scam artists create websites that may offer incredible savings, but these sites can prove to be traps for getting your credit card information.

BBB tips:
•    Always read the fine print and understand all terms and conditions before purchasing.  That should include details such as financing charges, delivery costs, limitations on returns and refunds, or restocking fees.
•    In stores, review prices, refund policies, and payment policies. In many location policies are required to be clearly posted on the item itself for pricing, or at the register point-of-sale for certain terms and conditions.
•    Shop on reputable websites that use reasonable payment and security practices. Check a seller’s reputation and confirm the site is secure by looking for the “s” in https:// in the address bar.  It's easy for scammers to mimic a real website, including logos, or to create realistic looking fake sites. It’s a major red flag if the website has no contact information or payment is requested by wire transfer or money card.
•    Look for the BBB seal on e-commerce websites and make sure they link back to the BBB website’s business review on the company.  The BBB seal indicates BBB Business Accreditation and compliance with our Standards for Trust.
•    Check the company’s business review at www.bbb.org especially if you run across a website you’ve never heard of that is offering special 4th of July deals.
•    Watch out for “bait and switch.”  If an item is offered at a certain price by a store or website, the seller should have a reasonable quantity of the item available at that cost.   Be wary if you are offered a more expensive item after responding to an advertisement for an inexpensive one, only to learn that the item has sold out very quickly.  “Bait and switch” tactics are illegal.
•    Pay with a credit card.  Credit cards carry additional protections should you not receive your item or have any type of dispute.
•    Get a receipt.  A receipt is evidence of the purchase and is usually required to resolve any problem with the item purchased.  Be cautious if accepting an e-receipt by email; in such cases ask how your email and any other private information might be used.

Counterfeit Tickets
Many communities organize special fireworks shows for the 4th of July or other special events with live music and performances. When these events sell out, scammers may attempt to sell counterfeit tickets on sites like Craigslist or even in person at the venue.

BBB tips:
•    Never wire money to someone you don’t know.  When buying tickets online, ideally pay with a credit card or through well-known payment services such as Paypal because of the consumer protections provided.
•    Be wary when buying from scalpers at the event. Buying tickets outside the venue can be risky. You might get taken to the cleaners or the seats may be just as advertised. Keep in mind that, in some situations, it’s illegal to charge more than the face value for tickets. 
•    Choose a reputable online ticket broker.  When purchasing tickets through an online broker, look for the BBB seal on their website, check them out online at bbb.org and check to see if they are a member of the NATB.  NATB members agree to follow a code of ethics that requires them to provide a 200% refund of the contracted ticket price if the tickets don’t arrive in time for a game, concert or show.
•    Review the company’s policy for customer satisfaction and what happens if tickets purchased through their site are fake or not as advertised.

Many scam artists use social media to carry out their schemes. During the holidays, they tend to capitalize on trends like eCards and viral videos that everyone wants to share. Even though you may think you’re opening a 4th of July eCard from a friend, or following a link to see a patriotic video, you may actually get an unwanted digital download. Scammers embed this kind of content with viruses and other malware that can infect your computer, or hijack your account, without your knowledge.

BBB tips:
Never open suspicious holiday eCards or download email attachments that you’re not expecting, and always keep your anti-virus software turned on and up-to-date. Don't click on an e-mail from someone you don't know or a name you don't recognize. When in doubt, delete it.

How to Spot a Phishing Email
•    You can spot a fake email by hovering over the links and checking whether the URL leads to the business's website or, in a scam email, to a third party site.  
•    Read the email carefully for signs that it may be fake (for example, misspellings, grammar, generic greetings such as "Dear member" instead of a name, etc.).
•    If you are not certain whether the email is legitimate, contact the business directly.

What to Do if You Receive a Phishing Email: 
•    Do NOT click on any links or attachments.
•    Do NOT agree to allow a stranger to “clean” your computer remotely.  Typically such offers are themselves phishing attempts that can have serious consequences.  Don’t believe emails or calls from unfamiliar parties, claiming that your computer has been hacked and offering help.
•    Be wary of any urgent instructions to take specified action such as "Click on the link or your account will be closed."
•    Delete the email from your computer completely (be sure to empty your "trash can" or "recycling bin," as well).
•    If you did click on a link, run anti-virus software's full system scan.  If you suspect that malware has been downloaded, it might be necessary for you to have a professional clean your computer’s hard drive.

If you need more information, contact the BBB at (540) 342-3455 or (800) 533-5501. You can also visit www.bbb.org.  Follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BBBWesternVA and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BBBWesternVA