YOUR MONEY: BBB shares warning about scammers targeting virtual holiday shoppers

Updated: Nov. 18, 2020 at 4:26 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Just about every in-person event is going virtual this year due to COVID-19.

Fundraisers, benefits, and even holiday shopping markets.

Before you buy anything, make sure you know exactly where your money is going.

These virtual pop-up holiday markets or craft fairs could be legitimate events but scammers are creating fake copycat events that charge admission.

Their goal is to steal your banking and personal information when you go to pay the admission fee.

That’s why the Better Business Bureau of South Central Louisiana is warning shoppers to do their research before checking out.

“We know that 2020 is different so people are trying to adapt with their businesses and virtual is the new way to go," said Carmen Million, CEO and President of the local BBB. "But there are some things that consumers and businesses need to be aware of when they’re talking about these virtual events. One is if you know that there is a virtual event you need to do your homework you don’t need to just click on a link that you received. You need to do your homework. You need to look at what they’re offering and what the rules are.”

Million said usually, these markets are not going to sell tickets up front so if somebody asks you to purchase a ticket and they ask for your credit card information and some personal information consider that to be a red flag.

If a website or even page looks credible in asking for an admission fee Million recommends directly calling the organization hosting the event.

If the holiday market is an actual event and you find some things you want to buy, use a credit card or a PayPal account.

“At the end of the day if you don’t receive the merchandise or if you receive it and there’s something wrong with it then you have the option to dispute it through your credit card because you haven’t actually paid for it yet. Of course when you use a debit card they immediately remove it from your bank account so then you have to negotiate with your bank to try to get your money back and that’s not always the easiest thing,” she explained.

Before you check out know what the return or exchange policy is. It is the buyer’s responsibility to know whether they’re able to get their money back for an item they don’t want.

Million also advises online shoppers to keep an eye out for pop-up ads.

“When you’re searching online, and we all do this, and we’re searching for a particular item you’re going to get all of these pop ups. We recommend that you not open up the pop-ups. You want to make sure that you’re researching and that you’re not providing information so they can hack into your computer because one of the scams that’s involved in this particular online purchasing is that they will bring you to another site by a pop up and they will steal your information, they will take control of your computer and they may even release malware onto your computer. So you really need to be very cautious. Investigate before you give any personal information and always check with the Better Business Bureau before you order from a particular company," Million said.

If you think you have been scammed you can always report it to the BBB through its live Scam Tracker online.

When shoppers report their mishaps it helps the BBB figure out where the scammers are targeting and hopefully it can help the shopper recoup their losses.

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