While we shop and cook and hang holiday lights, scammers are busy looking for their next targets. According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), Tennesseans lost approximately $104 million to scammers in 2022. Below is a list, from the Better Business Bureau (BBB), of scams to be on the lookout for during the holiday season and tips on how to keep yourself from being the next victim. Keep your holidays safe and jolly by not falling for these follies!
1. Compromised Account Alerts: The BBB has received reports on Scam Tracker about a scam that your bank account or Amazon, Netflix, etc. has been compromised. Victims report receiving a text, phone call, or email that states there has been suspicious activity and further action is needed to correct the issue. Typically a link or phone number is included that looks safe but they are NOT.
2. Look-Alike Websites: It’s very easy for scammers to mimic real websites. Look for the HTTPS and lock symbol at the top of the webpage; the “s” stands for secure. Also, look at the spelling of the web address. It is extremely easy for tricksters to change or add an extra letter to make it look legitimate.
3. Fake Shipping Notifications: This scam is used with different techniques. You may receive an email with attachments or links that could download malware to your computer to steal your personal information. You could also receive a nondescript postcard where you are instructed to call the number on the card which could lead to you revealing private information and/or when the house is vacant. Don’t fall for it!
4. Phony Charities: Scammers like to take advantage of the holiday spirit by sending fake charity solicitations to your email, phone, and on social media sites. You can verify charities at www.give.org or https://givingmatters.civicore.com/.
5. Temporary Holiday Jobs: A lot of companies need additional help during the holidays. Steer clear of job postings that ask you to share personal information or pay for job leads.
6. Holiday Apps: During the holidays, many seasonal apps are listed on Google Play and Apple’s App Store. Double-check the privacy policies to verify the information being collected. Free apps can also contain malware.
7. Misleading Social Media Ads: As you scroll through your social media feed, you often see products advertised. Always research before you buy. Online purchase scams are some of the most commonly reported scams to the BBB’s Scam Tracker.
8. “Free” Gift Cards: Scammers have been known to take advantage of this weakness by sending bulk phishing emails requesting personal information to receive “free” gift cards. In some of these emails, scammers impersonate legitimate companies and promise gift cards to reward their loyal customers. They may also use pop-up ads or send text messages with links saying you were randomly selected as the winner of a prize.
9. Holiday Wishlists: Use caution when purchasing popular toys, low-price electronics or luxury items from resellers on platforms like Facebook Marketplace. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
10. Social Media Gift Exchange: It sounds fun to purchase one gift and receive so much more in return; however, this holiday “fun” is a pyramid scheme, which is illegal.
11. Gift Card Scams: Gift cards are always a great idea for the holidays. Just remember to be vigilant. Avoid gift cards displayed in the open. If you choose one that is in a package, inspect the package or open it in front of the cashier to ensure it has not been replaced with a phony. Keep your receipt and register the card online with a new PIN (if possible).
12. Puppy Shopping: During the holidays a lot of people look for the perfect gift which could be a pet. Be skeptical of online pet sales. You might receive a pet from a “puppy mill” which could increase the likelihood of poor health, or you may receive nothing at all.
13. Advent Calendars: BBB received reports about advent calendar ads on social media not delivering as promised. Some were not received, and others received inferior products or incomplete orders. Consumers should research before they buy, read reviews and look up the company on BBB.org before purchasing.