It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year . . . For Scams

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Scams happen year-round, but they seem to be particularly rampant during the holiday season. Everyone is out looking for that gift for that special someone. As a result, scammers are out trying to make you “buy” it from them. Last month, the Better Business Bureau released a “naughty list” of scams to watch out for during the most wonderful time of the year. The “Naughty” List according to the Better Business Bureau:

1. Misleading ads on social media:

Research from the 2020 BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report indicated the most common scam reported was online purchase scams. These scams typically result in unwanted monthly subscriptions, never receiving the item you purchased, or receiving counterfeit items. Sometimes the ads have labels such as “free offer” or promise a charitable contribution.

2. Gift Exchanges:

These are common around Christmas and even Valentine’s Day and there is a new twist to them this year. The BBB reports that the scams revolve around participants exchanging bottles of wine, or purchasing a $10 gift online, or even having you submit your email address and pick the name of another participant on the list and send them money as a “pay it forward.” Even more intriguing is the “Secret Santa Dog” where you buy a $10 gift for a secret dog. All of these have one goal – to get you to unwittingly put all your information into their database. Additionally, and that of friends and relatives, and potentially send gifts or money to unknown individuals. The BBB states this is an illegal pyramid scheme – and one to be highly aware.

3. Special Holiday Apps:

Apps flood both the Google and Apple app store markets this time of year. For instance, there are video chats with Santa, or to watch him feed his reindeer or light the menorah. While these are mostly harmless, be sure to read the privacy policies on who they will share your information. Some free apps could include malware.

4. Compromised Account Alerts:

Although these are common throughout the year, the frequency of these scams rises during the holiday seasons. They include calls/emails/texts stating that your Amazon, Paypal, Netflix, credit card, or bank account has been compromised and urges the recipient to take further action immediately. Hang up and check your account on your own or contact the bank or account directly to verify but most likely it is a scammer trying to gain access to the account.

5. Free gift cards:

Who wouldn’t want free?? Typically using big names such as Starbucks or Lowes, the scammers will bulk email, text, or post on social media sites a free gift card in exchange for your personal information. Another tactic scammers use is to ask you to pay for something with a gift card or money order instead of a credit card or check. These typically are the result of a phone call or email claiming to be from an essential service (like utilities or mortgage/rent) that is “unpaid” and the service will be turned off unless you immediately purchase gift cards and tell them the card and pin numbers. These types of services will never request payment in the form of gift cards or money orders and if in doubt, contact the provider or bank directly to confirm and only pay through their authorized methods.

6. Temp Holiday Jobs:

If it’s too good to be true, it most likely is. Fake holiday job ads are another common scam this time of year and they seem legitimate as many businesses are looking for temporary workers and there is a significant increase in the number of online orders, processing, and shipping needs. You will never need to pay in advance to get a job and just be very careful with who you share your personal information.

7. Fake websites:

These typically are found within emails where a scammer sends an email with a special buy, deal, or bargain. The links could be to a look-alike website that can trick you into downloading malware, making fake purchases or sharing personal information. If in doubt, hover over the link in the email to verify it does go directly to the vendor sending out the offer. Another option is to visit the retailer directly, and not via the provided email link, and the offer should also appear on their website.

8. Fake charities:

What a world we live in that scammers will create a fake charity in an effort to scam funds from unsuspecting individuals. With 40% of the majority of charity funding coming from fundraising efforts over the holidays, and COVID closing down many of the live in-person events, charities have increasingly moved to online auctions or other fundraising events. Be wary of unknown charities, and if you have any doubt that this particular charity is legitimate, verify the charity at which is run by the BBB. When possible, donate with a credit card which have stronger protections on your purchases.

9. Fake shipping notifications:

You might get a text or email claiming to have a package for you from UPS or FedEx that they are having trouble delivering and asking you to click on a link to get you to download some malware or steal your personal information. They could also attempt to get you to pay new shipping fees to receive your item. Always contact the carrier directly if you are expecting a package and never provide personal information from an unsolicited text or email.

10. Virtual Holiday Events:

With many events moving online in the wake of the COVID pandemic, scammers are taking the opportunity to create fake events and charging admission to an event that usually is free to steal your credit card information. Confirm directly with the event organizer if there is indeed a fee to attend their event. If the event does have an admission fee, use a credit card to pay for the admission just in case.

The holidays are supposed to be “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” You can keep them that way by being prepared and knowledgeable to potential scams.

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