(NewsNation now) – Holidays are the perfect time for you to be with those you love. It’s also time to try to find a gift for those you care about, but the holidays are also the best time for criminals to catch you in a scheme.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has released a “Naughty List” of Christmas’ top 12 scams that will most likely catch consumers and donors on guard this holiday season.
Several of the scams have been eased through emails or social media platforms, BBB said.
BBB warns consumers to exercise caution when encountering ads on social media 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 via bank transfer or e-transfer, through third parties, with prepaid debit or gift cards, treat this as a red flag.
To avoid scams that could cut into your holiday cheer, BBB recommends using these tips:
1. Misleading ads on social media: As you scroll through your social media feed, you often see items for sale from a small business. Sometimes the company even claims to support a charity to get you to order or offer a free trial period. The BBB Scam Tracker receives reports of people paying for items they never receive, being charged monthly for a free trial they have never signed up for, or receiving an item that is counterfeit or very different from the one being advertised. That 2020 BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report found that online purchase fraud was the most common disadvantage reported to Scam Tracker and the category with the most victims. Do your homework and research the business before ordering. Check the company profile on BBB.org and read the reviews.
2. Gift exchange on social media: This scheme reappears every holiday season and this year is no different. A more recent version of this scam is about exchanging bottles of wine; another suggests buying gifts for $ 10 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 on.” There’s even a twist on “Secret Santa Dog” where you buy a $ 10 gift for your “secret dog”. In all of these versions, participants inadvertently share their personal information with the information of their family members and friends and are further tricked into buying and sending gifts or money to strangers. And – it’s an illegal pyramid scheme.
Read more about gift exchange on social media.
3. Holiday apps: Apple’s App Store and Google Playlist dozens of Christmas-themed apps where kids can video chat live with Santa, turn on the menorah, watch Santa feed live reindeer, track his sleigh on Christmas Eve, or forward their Christmas wish lists. This holiday season, just like last year, when COVID-19 got kids to skip the traditional visit to Santa, apps can play a more important role than ever. Review the privacy policies to see what information will be collected. Beware of free apps, as they can sometimes contain more advertising than apps that charge a nominal fee. Free apps can also contain malware.
Read more about holiday apps.
4. Warnings about compromised accounts: BBB has received reports on Scam Tracker of a scam alleging that your Amazon, Paypal, Netflix or bank account has been compromised. Victims receive an email, a call or a text message explaining that there has been suspicious activity on one of their accounts. It further urges them to take immediate action to prevent the account from being compromised. Be extra careful with unsolicited calls, emails and text messages.
Read more about ccompromised account fraud.
5. Free gift card: Nothing brings good mood like the word ‘FREE’. Scammers have been known to take advantage of this vulnerability by sending bulk phishing emails requesting personal information to receive free gift cards. Scammers imitate legitimate companies like Starbucks and promise gift cards to loyal customers who supported their business throughout the pandemic in some of these emails. They can also use pop-up ads or send text messages with links stating that you have been randomly selected as the winner of a prize.
If you received an unsolicited gift card email, do not open it. Mark it as spam or junk instead. But if you opened the email, do not click on any links.
Read more about gift card fraud.
Temporary holiday jobs: Retailers typically hire seasonal workers to help meet the demands of holiday customers. Shippers and delivery services are top holiday employers this year due to the rise in online orders and the need to deliver most of these packages before Christmas. These jobs are a great way to make extra money, sometimes with the opportunity to become a long-term employment opportunity. But job seekers need to be wary of employment scams aimed at stealing money and personal information from job seekers. Keep an eye out for options that seem too good to be true.
Read more about holiday job scams.
7. Look-Alike Websites: The holiday season brings endless emails with offers, sales and great deals. Be wary of emails with attached links. Some can lead to similar sites created by scammers to trick people into downloading malware, making dead-end purchases, and sharing private information. If you are unsure of the email, do not click on any of the links. Instead, hold the cursor over them to see where they redirect.
read more on similar websites.
8. False 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 canceled their usual fundraising events and awareness campaigns and are now inviting donors to support online. Donors are advised to keep an eye out for fraudulent charities and scammers who pretend to be individuals in need. Avoid improvised donation decisions for unknown organizations. Responsible organizations will accept a gift tomorrow as much as they do today. Confirm a charity at BBB’s give.org or on Canada Revenue Agency website. Where possible, donate to the charity through their website and use a credit card.
Read more about fake charities.
9. False shipping messages: More consumers are buying online; there is also an increase in the number of notifications of shipping details from dealers and carriers. Scammers are using this new increase to send phishing emails with attached links that could allow unwanted access to your private information or download malware to your device. They may also try to trick people into paying new shipping fees.
Read more about delivery and parcel fraud.
10. Pop Up Virtual Holiday Events: This year, many local events, such as pop-up holiday markets or craft fairs, have moved online. Unfortunately, scammers create fake event pages, social media posts and emails and charge 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 admission. In cases where there is a charge, you will need a credit card. If the event is free, watch out for scammers trying to claim otherwise.
Read more about pop-up holiday shops.
11. Top Christmas wish lists: Low or ridiculously priced luxury items, jewelry, designer clothes and electronics are almost always cheap fakes and knockoffs. This year, Galactic Snackin ‘Grogu Animatronic (aka Baby Yoda) and game consoles are in high demand. Be very careful when considering purchasing these valuable items from individuals through social networking sites. Read more about holiday hot toy scam.
12. Puppy scams: Many families, especially those with children, may consider adding a furry friend to their household this year. However, you may fall victim to pet scams, which are on the rise this year. Ask 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 on BBB’s tips on online shopping. If you’ve discovered an online scam, report it to BBB ScamTracker.
NewsNation affiliate WSYR contributed to this report.