While 2021 is quickly winding down, scams targeting
the public continue to cause trouble. Consumers should watch out for
any fraudulent schemes aimed at swiping their cash and stealing personal
information. Better Business Bureau (BBB) has a Naughty List with the top 12 scams of Christmas that are most likely to catch consumers and donors off guard during this season.Many of the scams on this list are facilitated
through emails and social media platforms, however the latter is where
most people are vulnerable. Exercise caution when coming across social
media ads about discounted items, event promotions, job opportunities
and donation requests, as well as direct messages from strangers. If you
are asked to make a payment or donation by wire or e-transfer, through
third parties, by prepaid debit or gift cards, treat this as a red flag.
Be mindful of these scams that could cut into your holiday cheer and our tips to avoid them:
1. Misleading Social Media Ads: As
you scroll through your social media feed, you often see items for sale
from a small business. Sometimes the business even claims to support a
charity to try to get you to order, or they offer a free trial. BBB Scam
Tracker receives reports of people paying for items that they never
receive, getting charged monthly for a free trial they never signed up
for, or receiving an item that is counterfeit or much different from the
one advertised. The 2020 BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report
found that online purchase scams were the most common cons reported to
Scam Tracker and the category with the most victims. Do your homework
and research the company before ordering. Check out the business profile
on BBB.org and read the reviews. Read more about misleading ads. free trial offers, and counterfeit goods.2. Social Media Gift Exchanges:
Each holiday season this scheme pops back up, and this year is no
different. A newer version of this scam revolves around exchanging
bottles of wine; another suggests purchasing $10 gifts online. Another
twist asks you to submit your email into a list where participants get
to pick a name and send money to strangers to “pay it forward.” There is
even a twist about “Secret Santa Dog” where you buy a $10 gift for your
“secret dog.” In all of these versions, participants unwittingly
share their personal information, along with those of their family
members and friends, and are further tricked into buying and shipping
gifts or money to unknown individuals. And– it’s an illegal pyramid
scheme.Read more about the social media gift exhange.3. Holiday Apps: Apple’s App Store
and Google Play list dozens of holiday-themed apps where children can
video chat live with Santa, light the menorah, watch Santa feed live
reindeer, track his sleigh on Christmas Eve, or relay their holiday wish
lists. This holiday season, like last year when COVID-19 caused
children to skip the traditional in-person visit with Santa, apps may
play a more important role than ever. Review privacy policies to see
what information will be collected. Be wary of free apps, as they can
sometimes contain more advertising than apps that require a nominal fee.
Free apps can also contain malware.Read more about holiday apps.4. Alerts About Compromised Accounts: BBB has been receiving reports on Scam Tracker
about a con claiming your Amazon, Paypal, Netflix or bank account has
been compromised. Victims receive an email, call, or text message which
explains that there has been suspicious activity on one of their
accounts, and it further urges them to take immediate action to prevent
the account from being compromised. Be extra cautious about unsolicited
calls, emails, and texts.
Read more about compromised accounts scams.
5. Free Gift Cards: Nothing brings
good cheer like the word ‘FREE’. Scammers have been known to take
advantage of this weakness by sending bulk phishing emails requesting
personal information to receive free gift cards. In some of these
emails, scammers impersonate legitimate companies like Starbucks and
promise gift cards to loyal customers that have been supporting their
business throughout the pandemic. They may also use pop-up ads or send
text messages with links saying you were randomly selected as the winner
for a prize.
If you have received an unsolicited email with gift card offers, do
not open it. Instead, mark it as Spam or Junk. However, if you opened
the email, do not click on any links.
Read more about gift card scams.
6. Temporary Holiday Jobs:
Retailers typically hire seasonal workers to help meet the demands of
holiday shoppers. Shippers and delivery services are top holiday
employers this year because of the increase in online orders and the
need to get most of these packages delivered before Christmas. These
jobs are a great way to make extra money, sometimes with the possibility
of turning into a long-term employment opportunity. However, jobseekers
need to be wary of employment scams aimed at stealing money and
personal information from job applicants. Keep an eye out for
opportunities that seem too good to be true.
Read more about holiday job scams.
7. Look-Alike Websites: The
holiday season brings endless emails offering deals, sales and bargains.
Be wary of emails with links enclosed. Some may lead to look-alike
websites created by scammers to trick people into downloading malware,
making dead-end purchases and sharing private information. If you are
uncertain about the email, do not click any of the links. Instead, hover
over them to see where they reroute.
Read more on look-alike websites.
8. Fake Charities: Typically, 40%
of all charitable donations are received during the last few weeks of
the year. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations had
to cancel their usual fundraising events and awareness campaigns and are
now inviting donors to support online. Donors are advised to lookout
for fraudulent charities and scammers pretending to be individuals in
need. Avoid impromptu donation decisions to unfamiliar organizations.
Responsible organizations will welcome a gift tomorrow as much as they
do today. Verify a charity at BBB’s give.org or on the Canada Revenue Agency website. Where possible, donate to the charity through their website and use a credit card.Read more about fake charities.9. Fake Shipping Notifications:
More consumers are making purchases online, there is also an increase in
the number of notifications about shipping details from retailers and
carriers. Scammers are using this new surge to send phishing emails with
links enclosed that may allow unwanted access to your private
information or download malware onto your device. They may also try to
trick people into paying new shipping fees.
Read more about delivery and package scams.
10. Pop Up Holiday Virtual Events:
This year, many local in-person events such as pop-up holiday markets
or craft fairs, have moved online. Scammers are creating fake event
pages, social media posts, and emails, charging admission for what used
to be a free event. The goal is to steal credit card information.
Confirm with the organizer of the event if there is an admission fee. In
the cases where there is a charge, use a credit card. If the event is
free, watch for scammers trying to claim otherwise.
Read more about pop up holiday shops.
11. Top Holiday Wishlist Items:
Low or ridiculously priced luxury goods, jewelry, designer clothing, and
electronics are almost always cheap counterfeits and knockoffs. This
year, the Galactic Snackin’ Grogu Animatronic (aka Baby Yoda) and game
consoles are some of the items in high demand. Be very cautious when
considering to purchase these high-value items from individuals through
social sites.Read more about holiday hot toy scams.12. Puppy Scams: Many families,
especially those with children, may be considering to add a furry friend
to their household this year. However, you could fall victim to a pet
scam, which are on the rise this year. Request to see the pet in person
before making a purchase. Read more on pet scams. For general information on how to avoid scams, visit BBB.org/AvoidScams. For more advice, read BBB’s tips on online shopping. If you’ve spotted an online scam, report it to BBB ScamTracker.
Read more BBB Holiday Tips at BBB.org/holiday.