Holiday Scams Target The Unwary, BBB Warns

Santa with lanternBy Jerri Stroud, BBB Editor

With all the shopping, cooking and celebrating that occurs during the holidays, it’s easy to find yourself stretched so thin that you can be vulnerable to scammers who want to capitalize on your divided attention.

Better Business Bureau (BBB) hears from consumers every day who’ve been approached by email, on websites or on the phone by scammers seeking to con them out of money or steal their personal information. We summarized some of the most common scams in a recent press release.

One scam that’s particularly common during the holidays is a bogus email that says you have a package that couldn’t be delivered because there are unpaid fees or other issues. Scammers often use the names of prominent delivery services, such as UPS, FedEx or others.

If you get one of these emails, don’t click on any of the links or answer it right away. Look carefully at the email address originating the message. You may need to hover over the address with your mouse because sometimes scammers can disguise their emails so they look legitimate. Also look for spelling errors or bad grammar, common tipoffs that the email isn’t real.

If you’re expecting a package from an online store, the site probably sent you a tracking number for the package. Use that tracking number to check on the progress, or call the shipper to verify that there is really a package that couldn’t be delivered. Be skeptical if you’re asked to reveal sensitive personal information before you can get information on the package.

Another common complaint is online orders that aren’t delivered on time or that never arrive at all. New “deal” sites often pop up during the holidays, when shoppers may be looking for ways to stretch their budgets for holiday gifts. Other online merchants can get bogged down by heavy holiday traffic and may not be able to meet the demand in time for the holiday.

Before shopping on unfamiliar sites, spend a little extra time checking for privacy policies, shipping schedules and any security seals on the sites. Click on the seals to be sure they’re genuine, and look at any reviews closely to see if they sound too good to be true. BBB’s 10 Tips for Safe Online Shopping can help you sort out trustworthy sites from dicey ones.

BBB Business Reviews are a great source for checking out companies before you shop. They’re available 24/7 on our website.

Watch out, too, for attractive or provocative pictures on social media that prompt you to click for more information. “Clickbait” scams often use current hot topics or pictures of celebrities to entice people to click, then ask for  personal information before they will allow you to see the promised details or the full picture.

holiday tips center header

BBB has a whole package of tips to help you enjoy your holiday safely and scam-free. And as always, we’re here to help if you do have a problem with a merchant or shipper. You can file a complaint online or by calling 314-645-3300 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. weekdays.



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