We all look forward to the holidays, and so do scammers. As people begin to make their holiday plans, unscrupulous scammers are dusting off their tried and true seasonal scams. The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) is advising shoppers that by knowing the red flags to watch out for and by adhering to the following tips, they’ll hopefully be able to steer clear of Grinch-like scams:
- Always check a business’s BBB Business Review, at www.bbb.org, before making a purchase in the store or online. Make sure that the company has a physical address and telephone number. When shopping online, some websites offer electronics or luxury goods at prices that are too good to be true. Every holiday season, the BBB hears from holiday shoppers who pounced on a “great deal” online, but received little or nothing in return.
- If you shop craigslist or other bulletin board websites, look for local sellers and conduct transactions in person. Bring a friend if you’re uncomfortable meeting the seller alone, and meet in a public place during daylight hours. Never wire money as payment. If you’re shopping on auctions like eBay, look at seller ratings and read their reviews. Don’t buy if the deal sounds too good to be true.
- Don’t let yourself get bogged down in purchases or lose track of your wallet. While you’re struggling with bags of presents, identity thieves may see an opportunity to steal your wallet or look over your shoulder to copy your debit or credit card numbers. Know where your credit and debit cards are at all times and cover the keypad when entering your PIN at the checkout. Make sure you put your cards back in your wallet after each purchase.
- Before you make a donation, research charities with the BBB to ensure they meet our 20 Standards for Charity Accountability. The holidays are a time of giving, and that creates an opportunity for scammers to solicit donations in an attempt to line their own pockets. Resist demands for on-the-spot donations. Up-to-date reports on local and national charities are available at www.give.org.
- Don’t click on any links or open any attachments to emails until you have confirmed that they are not malicious. Phishing emails are a common way for hackers to get at your personal information or install malware on your computer. Around the holidays, beware of e-cards and messages pretending to be from companies like UPS or FedEx with links to package tracking information. Email addresses that don’t match up, typos and grammatical mistakes are common red flags of a malicious phishing email. Also beware of unsolicited emails from companies with which you have no association. Make sure you have current antivirus software and that all security patches have been installed on your computer.