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BBB warns consumers to be cautious during the holidays

December 19, 2018

The spirit of the holiday season usually brings out the joy of giving for most people, but for scammers, the holidays are a season of taking. Buying gifts and donating to charities creates countless opportunities for scammers to swindle consumers out of personal information and hard-earned money. Shoppers are encouraged to be mindful of scamming fraudsters, who unlike the Grinch, will not return your money or gifts.

The Better Business Bureau of Greater Houston and South Texas is warning consumers to beware with these Twelve Scams of Christmas:

1. Fake or Look-Alike Websites/Social Media pages: When stores sell out of popular merchandise, customers may find the items online on a different website or social media page instead of the official retailer’s site. Some of these sites can be legitimate, but others may not be. Remember, it’s easy to mimic a real website. Make sure the website has “https://” at the beginning of its web address. The “s” indicates the website is secure. If shopping via social media, double-check the site being visited is the business’ official social media page. Some dishonest sites will take consumers money and run, leaving them without the gift or money to buy it elsewhere. Check with BBBSETexas.org before ordering online from a business.

2. Counterfeit Goods: Luxury goods at extremely low prices might be 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 be cautious using online marketplaces.

3. Phony Charities: Everyone is in a generous mood during the holidays, so scammers take advantage of that generosity with fake charity solicitations in email, on social media sites, via crowdfunding pages, by text and even in person. Check out charities at BBBSETexas.org before donating.

4. Social Media Gift Exchange: Purchasing one gift and receiving 36 sounds like a great deal, but this seasonal scam is actually a pyramid scheme.

5. Grandparent Scams: Seniors should be cautious if they get a call from a grandchild claiming to be in an accident, arrested or hospitalized while traveling in another country. Never send money without first confirming with another family member that it’s true.

6. Free Gift Cards: Unsolicited texts or emails offering free gift cards are often just a ploy to get personal information that can later be used for identity theft.

7. Malicious E-Cards: Electronic cards can be great fun but be careful. Two red flags to watch out for are: (1) the sender’s name is not apparent, and (2) shoppers are required to share additional information to get the cards.

8. Fake Shipping Notifications: These emails can have attachments or links to sites that will download malware on shoppers computers to steal their identity and their passwords. Don’t be fooled by holiday phishing scams.

9. Fake holiday jobs: Retailers and delivery services need extra help at the holidays but beware of email or text message solicitations that require shoppers to share personal information online or pay for a job lead or hire customers without an interview. Apply in person or go to the retailers’ main websites to find out who is hiring.

10. Unusual Forms of Payments: Be wary of anyone who asks consumers to pay for holiday purchases using prepaid debit cards, gift cards, wire transfers, third parties, etc. These payments cannot be traced and cannot be undone.

11. Puppy Scams: Be very careful buying pets online, especially during the holidays. Consumers may get a puppy mill pooch with problems, or they may get nothing at all because it was a scam.

12. Fake Letters From Santa: Many legitimate businesses offer personalized letters from Santa, but some copycat scammers are only looking to glean personal information from unsuspecting parents.

Check with BBBSETexas.org or call our phone line at 409-835-5951 for more information, and be sure to research any business before making a purchase or charity before donating.

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