The holidays are great for connecting with friends and family and catching up on old times. However, this time of year is also when scammers are thinking of ways to rip you off. The Better Business Bureau is alerting consumers about some of the ways thieves may try to lure you into their trap. Here are some holiday scams you should watch out for.
1. Suspicious e-cards
It feels great to get a holiday greeting from a loved one, but if you’re not careful you could be tricked into revealing sensitive information. The Better Business Bureau says you should think twice about opening that card if the sender’s name is not obvious or if you’re asked to share personal information in order to access the greeting. The Greeting Card Association also sent out a notice to consumers telling them to be on alert about these suspicious cards.
“…Beware of emails claiming you’ve received an electronic greeting from an unnamed individual, someone you don’t know, or a generic friend, classmate, or family member…The scam emails, which often look very legitimate, instruct you to click on a link in the email message to collect or view your e-card. Clicking on the link can introduce a virus or malicious software into your computer,” said Kathy Krassner, former Greeting Card Association communications director.
2. Fake charities
This is the season for giving, but don’t let your kindness get you in trouble. Not all charities are what they seem. In fact, some are set up just so scammers can bilk you out of your cash. Charity impersonation is such a big problem that the IRS listed it as one of the “dirty dozen” tax scams. Before you donate, thoroughly research the charity. Some websites that can help you determine if a charity is legitimate are Charity Navigator, Give.org and Select Check.
3. Free gift cards
If something is offered to you for free, you should definitely check the fine print. Getting something for nothing can sometimes be a very bad deal. Watch out for pop-up ads or emails advertising free gift cards. The Better Business Bureau says this is a scheme to grab your personal information. Also be careful about taking online surveys that promise a free gift card as a reward for participating.
“The survey starts off with standard questions about how often you shop at the store and how you rate the website. But when you get to the end of the survey, you find there is no gift card after all. Instead, the site is offering $50 or $100 off a variety of dubious products, such as free credit reporting, wrinkle cream and background checks. In other versions of this scam, the ‘customer survey’ asks for personal information, such as address and credit card number. Con artists can use this information for identity theft,” warned the Better Business Bureau.
4. Seasonal job scam
You may be using your holiday vacation as an opportunity to make extra cash. However, criminals know more people are out looking for seasonal work, and they are taking advantage of this by posting fake job ads.
“Retailers and delivery services need extra help at the holidays, but beware of solicitations that require you to share personal information online or pay for a job lead. Apply in person or go to retailers’ main websites to find out who is hiring,” said the Better Business Bureau.
5. Fake shipping notifications
If you receive a shipping notification and you haven’t purchased anything, beware. Sometimes criminals will send an email under the guise that an item you bought has been shipped. The message usually contains an attachment or a link to a site that will download malware onto your computer. In another version of this scam, called a “spoofed invoice” scam, a criminal will send a fake invoice and request payment online. Before you know it, you’ve given your payment information to a thief. FedEx has an example of a spoofed invoice here.
6. Look-alike websites
Some scammers will create a website that looks exactly like a website for a well-known store. You could unknowingly make a purchase on a scam website and end up giving a thief your credit card number. Before you shop online, make sure to check the URL. The URL for a fake website will often feature the name of a popular brand along with extra words. Another way you can protect yourself from landing on a fake website is to be careful when checking email. Don’t click on links in an email. Even if you think the message is from a sender you know, it’s best to go directly to the website. A criminal could include a link in that takes you to a scam website.