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2015-12-24

BBB's 'Naughty' list - five holiday scams

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Personnel with the Better Business Bureau advises consumers to watch out for common scams during the holidays
The "merry and bright" holiday season can bring out scammers looking to take advantage. Santa isn't the only one keeping track of who is naughty and nice - more than 11,000 scams have been reported across the United States and Canada on BBB Scam Tracker this year. So far, 1,000 scams have been reported in Texas.
Better Business Bureau serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin advises consumers to watch out for these five scams this holiday season:
Look-alike websites promising fake deals - When shopping online for gifts, make sure to use only legitimate websites, and beware of URLs similar to those of well-known brands.
Some scammers will send fake emails or advertisements promising unheard of deals for a product, leading consumers to a fake or look-alike website that steals credit card information during check out.
Also, beware of fake shipping notifications that could have attachments or links included in the email that downloads malware on computers that steal passwords and personal information. Remember, if the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Santa letter scheme - While some legitimate companies sell letters from Santa Claus, some scammers are using this idea to steal credit card and personal information from unsuspecting consumers. When looking for a customized letter, research several companies and visit their sites from a browser, not from emails or social media. Also, check with bbb.org to find out which ones are trustworthy.
Fake gift cards - Gift cards are the most popular holiday gift, but also the most susceptible to fraud. Scam artists will go to a store and record the activation code on a gift card. After checking if the gift card is still valid online, fraudsters can use the online code to cash the gift card for resalable products.
Before buying, make sure the security code on the gift card is scratch-free and look for gift cards that come in an unopened, plastic container. Also, beware of pop-up ads or emails offering free gift cards.
Temporary holiday jobs - Retailers and delivery services need extra help at the holidays, but beware of solicitations that require the sharing of personal information online or to pay a fee for a job lead or application. Apply in person or go to the retailers' main website to find out who is hiring - and if they're really hiring.
Social media gift exchange - This trending scam, called the social media gift exchange, happens on Facebook or Instagram and sounds like a great deal - purchase one gift and get 36 in return. Some people have even posted photos of the gifts they've received. However, this scam relies on constantly recruiting new participants, making it mathematically impossible to sustain.
This seasonal scam is actually a pyramid scheme and a form of gambling, which is illegal in the US.
In addition to these scams, the BBB advises donors to be careful when giving during the holidays, and watch out for fake charities. Scammers take advantage of those looking to donate with fake charity solicitations in email, on social media sites and even by text message. Check out charities at give.org before donating and for more wise giving tips.
For more information about scams or to report a scam, visit BBB Scam Stopper.
For the latest news and information, follow the BBB on watchyourbuck.com, Facebook and Twitter, and to check out a company and find trustworthy businesses, visit bbb.org.