The Better Business Bureau says scammers are on the rise for the holiday season.
In a recently released list of the top 12 Christmas scams, BBB officials say criminals use email and social media to facilitate most scams, but social media is where people are most vulnerable.
The BBB also warns consumers to avoid misleading advertisements, gift exchanges and holiday apps.
They say scams that pop up every year during the holidays include fake charities, fake shipping notifications, and similar websites.
As 2021 quickly draws to a close, scams targeting the public continue to cause problems. Consumers should be careful of any fraudulent schemes to steal their money and steal personal information. Better Business Bureau (BBB) has a naughty list with the top 12 Christmas scams that are most likely to catch consumers and donors off guard during this season.
Many of the scams on this list are facilitated through email and social media platforms, but the latter are where most people are vulnerable. Exercise caution when you come across advertisements on social media for 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 bank transfer or electronic transfer, through third parties, by prepaid debit card or by gift card, consider this a red flag.
Be aware of these scams that could ruin your holiday cheer and our tips for avoiding them:
2. Gift exchanges on social networks: Every holiday season, this pattern reappears, and this year is no different. A more recent version of this scam revolves around the exchange of wine bottles; another suggests buying $10 gifts online. Another twist asks you to submit your email to a list where attendees can choose a name and send money to strangers to “pay it forward.” There’s even a variation of “Secret Santa Dog” where you buy a $10 gift for your “secret dog.”
In all of these versions, participants unwittingly share their personal information, as well as that of family members and friends, and are further tricked into buying and sending gifts or money to strangers. And– it’s an illegal pyramid scheme.
3. Holiday apps: The Apple App Store and Google Play list dozens of holiday-themed apps where kids can live chat with Santa Claus, light the menorah, watch Santa feed the reindeer live, follow his sledding on Christmas Eve or forwarding their holiday wish lists. This holiday season, like last year when COVID-19 blew the kids away during the traditional in-person visit with Santa, apps can play a bigger role than ever. Check the privacy policies to see what information will be collected. Beware of free apps, as they can sometimes contain more advertising than paid apps. Free apps can also contain malware.
Learn more about itcompromised account scams.
5. Free gift cards: Nothing brings a good mood like the word ‘FREE’. Scammers have been known to take advantage of this weakness by sending mass phishing emails asking for personal information to receive free gift cards. In some of these emails, scammers impersonate legitimate businesses like Starbucks and promise gift cards to loyal customers who have supported their business throughout the pandemic. They may also use contextual advertisements or send text messages with links stating that you have been randomly selected as a prize winner.
If you received an unsolicited email with offers for gift cards, do not open it. Instead, mark it as spam or junk. However, if you opened the email, do not click on any links.
Learn more about gift card scams.
6. Temporary Vacation Jobs: Retailers typically hire seasonal workers to help meet the demands of holiday shoppers. Shippers and delivery services are the main holiday employers this year due to the increase in online orders and the need to have most of these packages delivered before Christmas. These jobs are a great way to earn extra money, sometimes with the ability to turn into a long-term employment opportunity. However, job seekers should beware of employment scams aimed at stealing money and personal information from job seekers. Keep an eye out for opportunities that seem too good to be true.
Learn more about holiday job scams.
seven. Similar websites: The holiday season brings endless emails with offers, sales and bargains. Beware of emails containing links. Some may lead to similar websites created by scammers to trick people into downloading malware, making dead-end purchases and sharing private information. If you are unsure of the email address, do not click on any of the links. Instead, hover over them to see where they redirect.
Learn more about similar websites.
9. Fake shipping notificationsAs more consumers shop online, there is also an increase in notifications regarding shipping details from retailers and carriers. Scammers are using this new wave to send phishing emails containing links that can allow unwanted access to your private information or download malware to your device. They may also try to trick people into paying new shipping charges.
Learn more about delivery and parcel scams.
ten. Virtual Holiday Pop Up Events: This year, many local in-person events, such as pop-up holiday markets or craft fairs, have moved online. Scammers create fake event pages, social media posts and emails, charging entry for what was previously a free event. The goal is to steal credit card information. Confirm with the event organizer if there is an admission fee. In cases where there are charges, use a credit card. If the event is free, watch out for scammers claiming otherwise.
Learn more about pop-up holiday shops.
11. Best Holiday Wish List Items: Low-priced or ridiculously priced luxury goods, jewelry, designer clothes, and electronics are almost always knock-offs and cheap counterfeits. This year, the Galactic Snackin’ Grogu Animatronic (aka Baby Yoda) and game consoles are among the most requested items. Be very careful when considering buying these high value items from individuals through social sites.
12. Puppy Scams: Many families, especially those with children, may be considering adding a four-legged friend to their household this year. However, you could be a victim of a pet scam, which is on the rise this year. Ask to see the animal in person before making a purchase.