Don’t let Grinches scam you this holiday

Another holiday season is upon us. While it should be merry and bright, there are some “Grinches” trying to take your personal information and money. Better Business Bureau encourages everyone to be informed about these 12 scams that are common during the holiday season:
•  Free Gift Cards: Budgets can become tight when finding gifts for your loved ones, so any financial relief is welcomed. You may, however, come across emails or pop-up ads offering free gift cards. Be wary of these tempting opportunities. They are often a ploy to collect your personal information that can be later used to steal your identity.
•  Social Media Gift Exchange: You’re invited via social media to join a gift exchange, which sounds harmless and fun. Why wouldn’t it be? If you buy one $10 gift for a stranger, you will receive as many as 36 gifts back! It’s actually a hoax with the same premise as a pyramid scheme where it relies on constantly recruiting new participants. In the United States, pyramid schemes are illegal, so it’s best to just respectfully decline any invitations to participate.
•  Holiday Jobs: It’s not uncommon for people to want to make some extra money with a seasonal job. You just have to be careful of employment scams, especially when retailers and delivery services often need extra help during the holidays. Be cautious of solicitations requiring you to share personal information online or pay for a job lead. Rather than apply online, go to a retailer location and apply in person.
•  Puppy Scams: Pets make great gifts, but there’s a lot you should first consider. Should you decide it’s the right decision, be careful about adopting a pet online. You could end up with a puppy mill pooch, or nothing at all. Fake pet sellers can lure you into thinking you’re getting a four legged friend, only to take your money and not deliver.
•  Romance Scams: If that special someone you met online quickly gets cozy or asks for money, keep your guard up. Scammers can come across as a romantic interest, with the intention of taking advantage of your heightened emotions.
•  Travel Scams: Whether you are traveling to celebrate the holidays with loved ones or seeking warmer weather, holiday travel can be expensive. Online bargains for better deals can be tempting, so make sure the offers are legitimate with these travel tips. 
•  Bogus Websites: Online shopping is convenient especially when trying to avoid the holiday shopping rush. When you do shop online, make sure to only use legitimate websites. Scammers use URLs that look very similar to those of legitimate sites. Always double check the URL before making a purchase and be wary of sites where the brand name is included with longer URLs. Learn about five ways to avoid fake websites.
•  Santa Scammers: The joy on children’s faces when they get a letter from Santa is priceless. There are several trusted companies offer charming and personalized letters from Santa, but scammers mimic them to get personal information from unsuspecting parents.
•  Pickpockets: While most scammers tend to focus their efforts online these days, pickpocketing still happens. Remember to safeguard your personal belongings while shopping, especially in crowded areas. Despite how flustered you may get, never leave your stuff unattended.
•  Counterfeit Gifts: When luxury goods and other high-priced items are offered at a steal, chances are it’s counterfeit merchandise. Rarely are you getting the same quality as an original, and in some cases, the money finances illegal activities like drug trafficking and child labor. You’re best option is to look for the warning flags and instead purchase from a trusted retailer.
•  Malware Email: Don’t be quick to click. Clicking on the wrong link, or downloading a scammer’s attachment can result in malware spreading to your computer. This computer virus or “bug” can steal personal information or even hold your device hostage unless you pay a price. Links and attachments can come in the form of email or pop-up advertisements. Learn more about malware scams.
•  Emergency Scam: No one wants to hear a family member or friend is dealing with an emergency, like a serious accident or incarceration. We quickly want to help, which is an admirable trait, but scammers take advantage of it. They target people claiming to be a family member or friend where the circumstance requires money to be resolved. Before sending any money, verify their story with other family and friends, but call directly. You can also ask questions that would be hard for an impostor to answer correctly. Familiarize yourself with other ways to identify an emergency scam.

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