How to Recognize Holiday Scams

You’re not the only one with a holiday wish-list…

BBB Serving Eastern MA, ME, RI & VT –This holiday season, BBB is warning shoppers of scams that can occur while shopping online or in stores. It’s easy to get caught up in holiday activities that can leave you open to potential scams. BBB advises consumers to stay alert during the holiday season to avoid falling victim to scammers poised to pounce on careless or overburdened shoppers.

“While the rest of us are checking off items on our shopping lists, scammers are busy gearing up for holiday scams,” says Paula Fleming, Vice President of the local BBB. “By being vigilant, consumers can avoid falling victim to the most common scams of the holiday season.”

5 Easy Pieces

These five common scams can strike at stores, online or even in your email. Follow these tips to avoid becoming a victim this holiday season.

  • 1. Online shopping scams: Everyone loves a great deal, but some websites offer electronics or luxury goods at prices that are too good to be true. Every holiday season, BBB hears from holiday shoppers who paid for a “great deal” online, but received little or nothing in returnBBB Tip: Always look for the BBB seal when shopping online and click on it to confirm that it’s legitimate. If you’re shopping on sites that aren’t major retailers, check out their BBB Business Reviews at Confirm that the business has a physical address and telephone number. Any pages where you enter personal or financial information should be secure with “https://” at the beginning of the address or URL.
  • 2. Online ads for hot toys and gadgets: When stores sell out, you may find the items online at sites like Craigslist or eBay— 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.BBB Tip: If you shop on Craigslist or other classified sites, look for local sellers and conduct transactions in person. Never wire money as payment. If you’re shopping on auctions like eBay, research sellers extensively and don’t buy if the deal sounds too good to be true.
  • 3. Identity theft at the mall: While you’re struggling with bags of presents, identity thieves may see an opportunity to steal your wallet or look over your shoulder to copy your debit or credit card numbers.BBB Tip: Don’t let yourself get bogged down in purchases or lose track of your wallet. Know where your credit and debit cards are at all times and cover the keypad when entering your pin number while purchasing items or getting money from an ATM. Make sure you put your card back in your wallet after each purchase.
  • 4. Bogus charitable pleas: The holidays are a time of giving, and that creates an opportunity for scammers to solicit donations to line their own pockets. Beware of solicitations from charities that don’t necessarily deliver on their promises or are ill-equipped to carry through on their plans. Resist demands for on-the-spot donations.BBB Tip: Always research charities with BBB before you donate to make sure the charity is legitimate. Up-to-date reports on thousands of local and national charities are always available for free at
  • 5. Phishing emails: Phishing emails are a common way for hackers to get at your personal information or break into your computer. Around the holidays, beware of e-cards and messages pretending to be from businesses like UPS, FedEx or major retailers with links to package tracking information.BBB Tip: Don’t click on any links or open any attachments to emails until you have confirmed that they are not malicious. Some emails can infect your computer with a virus or download malware if you click a link. Email addresses that don’t match up, typos and grammatical errors are common red flags of a malicious emails. Also beware of unsolicited emails from businesses with which you have no association. Make sure you have current antivirus software and that all security patches have been installed on the computer.
Around the holidays, beware of e-cards and messages pretending to be from businesses like UPS, FedEx or major retailers with links to package tracking information

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