BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The holiday season is a time for joy, but it will be lacking in that if a scammer gets hold of your funds. The Better Business Bureau has put together a list of the 12 common scams during the Christmas season.
It's important to trust your instincts and take time before giving any of your personal information. The more urgent it is for you to hand over your personal information, the more likely it's a scam.
For a list of real, legitimate holiday events and donation drives, click here.
1) Puppy Scams: Be very careful when buying pets online, especially during the holidays. You can end up with an unhealthy puppy from a puppy mill or nothing at all because that dog never existed and it was all a scam. Always research where you are buying the dog and never wire any money. Be sure to pick up the puppy in person instead of paying someone to ship it.
2) Bad Public Wi-Fi: While Wi-Fi is convenient, it does have risks. Never turn off your firewall, and make sure your antivirus is up to date whenever you are connected to public Wi-Fi. Scammers are after your money and your identity. Never use public Wi-Fi when you go on social media sites, especially when you use online banking.
3) Grandparents Scam: Senior citizens should be very cautious if they get a call from a grandchild claiming to be in an accident, hospitalized or arrested when traveling in another country. Never send any money unless you have confirmed with other family members this is true.
4) Travel Scams: The holidays are the biggest travel days of the year, which means scammers are lurking. Booking online is the most convenient way for many, but a scammer can be on the other end of the computer. Before you book, make sure you are booking through a reputable and verifiable website. Also, be wary of online ads and never wire any money to someone you don't know.
5) Phishing Scams/Shipping Notifications: Scammers take advantage of the online holiday shopping season. They send you fake email shipping notifications and they pose as FedEx, UPS or the postal service. When you click on the email you find out that the file isn't a shipping notification after all, and a virus just downloaded itself into your computer. Scammers claim the attached "virus" is the receipt you need to pick up your package. Remember never to click on any links in unsolicited emails, and keep track of all online purchases as a reference to any check against emails sent to your account.
6) Fake Charities: The holiday season is the time for giving and there are many charities out there needing help. Be sure your generosity is indeed going to the right places. Scammers can easily set up fake charities with similar sounding names, and they also solicit via email, social media and by txt. Always research the charity with BBB Wise Giving Alliance at give.org beforehand to see if that charity meets the 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.
7) Santa Scammers: What's better than a letter from Santa to light up your child's face? Many trusted companies offer charming and personalized letters from Santa, but scammers mimic them to get personal information from unsuspecting parents. Always check the website's private policies before entering any information to know how it will be used, if you don't see a policy then leave that website. Keep your computer secure by using firewalls, anti-spyware and antivirus software.
8) Unusual Forms of Payment: Be wary of anyone who asks you to pay for holiday purchases using prepaid debit cards, gift cards, wire transfers, third parties, etc. These payments can't be traced and undone. Use a credit card on a secure website (https-the extra s is for secure), and the lock symbol.
9) Look-a-like Website: It's easy to recreate a website with familiar logo, so beware when you're shopping online. Some red flags are the webpage is in http format, not the secure https, no contact information and even asking for payment by wire or money card. If you're not sure which site to trust, go to bbb.org and read online reviews first.
10) Counterfeit Goods: Luxury goods at low prices are almost always cheap counterfeits. Handbags, jewelry, watches, fragrances, wallets, and electronic devices are among the top of the list of items counterfeited. Always buy from reputable sellers, and check the web for signs of counterfeit goods.
11) Fake Callers: BBB sees an increase in phony calls during the holiday season. Callers claim to be from the IRS or a debt collector and try to get personal information from you. Be wary of unfamiliar numbers calling you, and ask questions to confirm their identity. Remember the IRS will NEVER contact you by phone.
12) Malware E Cards: E-Cards are a fun way to send holiday greetings, but be careful as senders like to attach viruses along with them. Don't click on emails from someone you don't know or a name you don't recognize. When in doubt, delete it out.