BBB warns holiday shoppers of 12 scams of Christmas – Here's what to watch out for

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — With 2022 winding down, holiday shopping has been ramping up. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has released a list of what it says are the top 12 scams of Christmas, so shoppers can stay alert and avoid being conned this holiday season.

The BBB says most of the scams can be avoided by using caution with “social media ads promoting discounted items, holiday events, job opportunities and donation requests, as well as direct messages from strangers.”

Here’s a list of the 12 top Christmas scams to look out for, per the BBB:

  1. Misleading social media ads: Always research something before you buy. Online purchase scams were found to be the most common cons reported to the BBB. You can check out the business profile on BBB.org and read the company’s reviews before purchasing.
  2. Social media gift exchanges: A newer version of this scam revolves around exchanging bottles of wine; another suggests purchasing $10 gifts online. Another twist asks you to submit your email into a list where participants get to pick a name and send money to strangers to “pay it forward.” 
  3. Holiday apps: Review privacy policies to see what information will be collected. Be wary of free apps, as they can sometimes contain more advertising than apps that require a nominal fee. Free apps can also contain malware.
  4. Alerts about compromised accounts: BBB has been receiving reports on Scam Tracker about a con claiming your Amazon, PayPal, Netflix or bank account has been compromised. Victims receive an email, call, or text message which explains that there has been suspicious activity on one of their accounts, and it further urges them to take immediate action to prevent the account from being compromised. Be extra cautious about unsolicited calls, emails, and texts.
  5. Free gift cards: Scammers will often use the word “FREE” as a guise for a con to get your information. If you have received an unsolicited email with gift card offers, do not open it. Instead, mark it as spam or junk. However, if you opened the email, do not click on any links.
  6. Temporary holiday jobs: Job seekers need to be wary of employment scams aimed at stealing money and personal information from job applicants. Keep an eye out for opportunities that seem too good to be true.
  7. Look-alike websites: Be wary of emails with links enclosed. Some may lead to look-alike websites created by scammers to trick people into downloading malware, making dead-end purchases, and sharing private information. If you are uncertain about the email, do not click any of the links.
  8. Fake charities: Avoid impromptu donation decisions to unfamiliar organizations. Responsible organizations will welcome a gift tomorrow as much as they do today. Verify a charity at BBB’s Give.org.
  9. Fake shipping notifications: Scammers are using the new surge in online ordering to send phishing emails with links enclosed that may allow unwanted access to your private information or download malware onto your device. They may also try to trick people into paying new shipping fees.
  10. Pop-up holiday virtual events: Scammers are creating fake event pages, social media posts, and emails, charging 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 an admission fee.
  11. Top holiday wish list items: Low-priced luxury goods, jewelry, designer clothing, and electronics are almost always cheap counterfeits and knockoffs. The same applies for popular toys. Be cautious when considering purchasing popular toys from resellers on Facebook Marketplace and other platforms. 
  12. Puppy scams: Many would-be pet owners turn to the internet to find their future cat or dog, but experts say a shocking 80% of sponsored pet advertisements may be fake. Be sure to see the pet in person before making a purchase. 

For more advice from the BBB on how to avoid scams, click here.

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