Look out for these common holiday scams when shopping or donating this year
QUINCY — A busy holiday shopping season is fast approaching — and with it comes holiday shopping scams.
Holiday spending is expected to surpass pre-pandemic figures for the first time this year, and shoppers are starting earlier than ever, especially younger ones. Major stores are offering sales even before Black Friday.
The chaos of the holiday season usually means emotions are running high. Scammers often try to manipulate people by taking advantage of those strong emotions, like gift shopping stress or holiday generosity.
The holidays can be busy, but there’s always time to pause and think before making a purchase, especially if something feels off.
Here are five common holiday scams to look out for when you’re shopping or donating this year:
Online shopping scams. Most holiday shoppers plan to buy at least half of their gifts online this year. Everyone loves a good deal, but some websites offer electronics, luxury goods or even puppies at prices too good to be true. You could risk losing money or personal information.
- Look for BBB’s Accredited Business seal when shopping online to find out whether you’re purchasing from a vetted retailer.
- To see customer reviews, complaints and ratings, check out a retailer’s BBB Business Profile at BBB.org or by calling 888-996-3887.
- Confirm that the company has a physical address and telephone number.
- Any pages where you enter personal or financial information should have https:// at the beginning of the address or URL
Online ads for hot toys and gadgets. When stores sell out, you may find these items online at sites like Craigslist or eBay – for a much steeper price. Some sellers will take your money and run, leaving you without the gift or money to buy it elsewhere.
- If you shop on Craigslist or other classified sites, look for local sellers and conduct transactions in person. Meet at a public location and bring a friend.
- Never wire money as payment. Use caution if asked to pay with a gift card or payment app, and never pay before seeing the item in person.
- If you’re shopping on auction sites like eBay, research sellers extensively and don’t buy if the deal sounds too good to be true.
Identity theft in public. While you’re struggling with bags of presents or groceries, 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 number.
- Whenever possible, use chip card payment or mobile wallet apps rather than swiping the magnetic strip, as these methods are safer.
Bogus charitable pleas. The holidays are a time of giving, and that creates an opportunity for scammers to solicit donations to line their own pockets.
- Beware of solicitations from charities that don’t deliver on promises or are ill- equipped to carry through on promises.
- Resist demands for on-the-spot donations. Legitimate charities will be glad to acceptyour donation at your convenience.
- Always research charities with BBB before you give to see if the charity meets BBB’s20 Standards for Charity Accountability.
Phishing emails. Phishing emails are a common way for hackers to get your personal information or break into your computer. Around the holidays, beware of messages claiming to be from companies like UPS, FedEx or major retailers with links to package tracking information.
- Look for red flags: Email addresses that don’t match up, typos and grammatical mistakes.
- Don’t click on any links or open any attachments to emails until you have confirmed that they are not malicious. Some links can infect your computer with a virus or download malware.
- Make sure you have current antivirus software and that all security patches have been installed on your computer.
Don O’Brien is regional director for the Quincy Better Business Bureau. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (217) 209-3972.
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