You better watch out this holiday season. Scammers are out to take advantage of you.
As you shop, donate and celebrate during the holidays, the Better Business Bureau warns that you need to be on the lookout for a variety of scams. Here 10 common schemes that are circulating this year.
Fake deals on social media
Think twice before clicking on ads or posts on social media for deals on products and services. The BBB Scam Tracker receives daily reports from people who experienced online purchase scams. They complain of paying for items they never receive, receiving counterfeit items or items that are different from what was advertised, and getting charged monthly for free trials they didn’t sign up for.
Before clicking on an ad on social media, check the company’s profile on BBB.org or do a search for the company name and “reviews” or “complaints.” And remember, if the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Social media gift exchanges
Don’t be tempted to join a gift exchange online with people you haven’t met. This scam pops up annually, with the latest version revolving around exchanging bottles of wine. Other versions include purchasing $10 gifts online, submitting your email to a list to pick a name and send money to a stranger to “pay it forward,” and sending a gift for a “Secret Santa Dog.”
All versions require providing your personal information and often the contact information of other family and friends. And you’re tricked into sending gifts or money to strangers.
Free gift cards
Watch out for emails with offers for free gift cards—even if the emails appear to come from legitimate companies. Scammers send these phishing emails in an attempt to get your personal information. This scam also can appear as a text message with a link to claim a free gift card or prize. Whatever you do, don’t click on the links or respond to these messages.
Alerts about compromised accounts
If you get an email and text message that there has been unusual activity on your bank account or another account, such as Amazon, Netflix, PayPal or Venmo, it’s a scam. The BBB cautions against clicking on links that urge you to take immediate action to stop a fraudulent charge or prevent your account from being compromised. The links will take you to websites that ask for your account information, which scammers will use to access your account.
If you’re concerned that there might be suspicious activity on your account, contact the company directly by calling the number on its websites. Don’t call a number provided to you in an email or text message.
[ See: Don’t Fall for Zelle Scams ]
Fake shipping confirmations
Scammers take advantage of online shopping around the holidays to send fake shipping confirmation emails and text messages. The messages appear to come from legitimate shipping companies and claim that the company is having trouble delivering a package to you. Or, it might ask you to update your delivery preferences.
Don’t click on any links in the message. It will take you to a form that requires your personal information, which will be stolen. Or it will download malware onto your computer.
Temporary holiday jobs
Although plenty of legitimate employers hire seasonal workers, watch out for fake offers of employment. Holiday job scams typically will ask for some sort of upfront payment, won’t require an interview, promise outrageously high wages for simple tasks or ask you to complete projects before officially hiring you.
Scammers take advantage of people’s generosity during the holiday season by creating fake charities or pretending to be people in need. Be wary of any organization that pressures you to make a donation on the spot, requests to be paid in cash or by gift card or wire transfer, that won’t provide specifics about how your money will be used or promises you’ll win a sweepstakes if you donate.
Research organizations before giving by searching online for the name of the organization and the words “complaint,” “review” or “scam.” Find out if the charity is registered in your state by checking with your state charity regulator. And get reports on charities and their ratings at organizations such as Charity Navigator and CharityWatch.
[ Find Out: How to Avoid Charity Scams ]
Be wary of emails offering deals at what appear to be legitimate retail sites. Also, watch out for online ads for holiday deals. Hover your mouse over the link to see if it goes to a legitimate website. Pay particular attention to the spelling of the retailer’s name in the link. It might appear to be a link for a retailer you know, but if the name is slightly misspelled (such as Amaz0n with a zero), don’t click on the link.
Your best bet is to avoid clicking on any links in emails or online ads. Instead, go directly to a retailer’s website to search for deals.
Deals on this season’s hot toys
Must-have holiday toys can quickly sell out. So be wary of online ads and unfamiliar websites offering deals or flash sales on hard-to-find toys. Even if the site looks legitimate, the offers usually are fake, according to BBB. Shoppers either receive counterfeit items or make a payment and never receive the item they purchased.
Hot toys this year include Squishmallows, Magic Mixies Magical Misting Crystal Ball, Snap Circuits, Breyer Horses Unicorn Magic Wood Stable and National Geographic Break Open Geodes. BBB warns that you should be wary of resellers offering these items on Facebook Marketplace or other platforms.
Holiday pop-up events
Watch out for both temporary pop-up shops that appear around the holidays and virtual holiday pop-up events. BBB has received complaints from consumers who shopped at temporary retail locations ranging from receiving counterfeit goods to trouble getting refunds when pop-up shops close.
BBB also has received complaints about scammers who are creating fake event pages, social media posts and emails asking for an admission fee for what typically are free events. The aim is to get people’s credit card information. Before paying a fee to attend a holiday event you see advertised online, do a search to see if you can find additional information about the event.
[ Keep Reading: How to Protect Your Account Passwords ]