Raleigh, N.C. (December 21, 2017) – With consumers spending and donating money at an all time high, Better Business Bureau serving Eastern North Carolina (BBB) is warning consumers of the 12 most common scams that occur during the holiday season.
“Scams happen at all times of year,” said Mallory Wojciechowski, president and CEO of BBB serving Eastern NC. “It is important that consumers are aware that they become more prevalent during the holiday season and take extra precaution when buying gifts in the store or online, or donating money to a worthy cause.
- Secret Sister Exchange: A social media scam that claims if you buy a $10 gift and send it to a “secret sister,” you will receive anywhere from six to 36 gifts in return. Gift exchanges are popular this time of year, but according to the U.S. Postal Service, this type of gift chain is illegal. It falls into the “chain letter” category. They don’t work because the promise that all participants in a chain letter will be winners is mathematically impossible. So if you’re looking for a fun gift exchange activity, this one isn’t the way to do it. This has been spotted on a number of social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
- Help Scams: Scammers are making calls, claiming to be a grandchild, niece, nephew or friend, and say that they are traveling and need emergency financial help to cover medical or legal expenses. Never wire money and always verify that person in need is actually someone you know.
- Seasonal Travel Scams: The holidays are a big time for travel. And for the most part, booking online is the most convenient way for many to go but remember, scammers could be on the other end of the computer. Before booking, make sure you are using a reputable, verified website. If the price for airfare, rental car or hotel sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Be wary of unrealistic prices and deals.
- Puppy Scams: Be careful when buying pets online, especially during the holidays. You can end up with an unhealthy puppy from a puppy mill, or no pet at all because the dog never existed and it was all a scam. Always research where you are buying the dog from and never wire any money. Be sure to pick up the puppy in person instead of paying someone to ship it.
- Phony charities: ‘Tis the season to donate, but be wary of fake charities. Do your research and double check the site URL. Also be sure to research charities through the BBB Wise Giving Alliance at give.org.
- 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. Be sure to look out for red flags including, http (not the more secure https), no contact information, or requests to pay by wire or money card.
- Fake Shipping Notifications: Think twice before clicking links in shipping notification emails. Always verify the shipping company before giving out your personal information.
- Santa Scammers: What better than a letter from Santa to light up your child’s face? Many trusted companies offer charming and personalized letters from Santa, but scammers mimic them to get personal information from unsuspecting parents. Always check the website’s privacy policies before entering any information to know how it will be used, if you don’t see a policy then leave that website. Keep your computer secure by using firewalls, anti-spyware and antivirus software.
- Public Wi-Fi: While Wi-Fi is convenient, it does have risks. Never turn off your firewall, and make sure your antivirus is up to date whenever you are connected to public Wi-Fi. Scammers are after your money and identity. Exercise caution when using public Wi-Fi while surfing social media sites, and especially when you use online banking.
- Fake Apps: Today, smartphones act not only as a phone but also a credit card, house key, camera and more. Malware can access your device via apps. Do your research and stick to official app stores when downloading.
- Malware E Cards: E-Cards are a fun way to send holiday greetings, but be careful as senders like to attach viruses along with them. Don’t click on emails from someone you don’t know or from a name you don’t recognize. When in doubt, delete the email. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Counterfeit Goods: Luxury goods at low prices are almost always cheap counterfeits. Handbags, jewelry, watches, wallets, and electronic devices are among the top of the list of items counterfeited. Always buy from reputable sellers and check the web for signs of counterfeit goods.
For more information you can trust, visit www.bbb.org
About BBB serving Eastern North Carolina
Better Business Bureau serving Eastern North Carolina is a 501(c)(6) not-for-profit corporation serving 33 counties in eastern North Carolina. The organization is funded primarily by BBB Accredited Business fees from more than 3,700 local businesses and professional firms. BBB promotes integrity, consumer confidence and business ethics through business self-regulation in the local marketplace. Services provided by BBB include reports on companies and charitable organizations, general monitoring of advertising in the marketplace, consumer/business education programs and dispute resolution services. All services are provided at no cost to the public, with the occasional exception of mediation and arbitration. Visit www.bbb.org