Editor's Note: Each day, Monday through Friday, we will update this story with a new scam. Check back to find out other ways scammers are trying to trick you this holiday season.
WEST PALM BEACH - According to the Better Business Bureau, online shopping scams peak in December. Protect yourself from scams as you shop online, give to different charities and connect with loved ones. We’ve included tips from the BBB, FBI and Jupiter Police Deptment.
DAY 1: PHONY WEBSITES AND SHAM SHIPPING NOTIFICATIONS
This tip is a two-for-one, just like those holiday deals you hope to catch before Santa’s sleigh takes flight. First beware of phony websites. They look like the real thing, but scammers are behind them and they want to steal your financial information.
- Check the URL to make sure you're not on a fake site.
- If a seller asks you to pay with a gift card or wire transfer, run.
- Pay with a credit card for the most protection.
- Only shop through a secure Wi-Fi connection.
Lastly, avoid sham shipping notifications. “It is shady and it is preying on that sense of urgency that you have to do something now about it,” said Supervisory Special Agent Jessica Orench with the FBI’s Miami Field Office.
- Put your cursor over the link to see if it's from a strange email address.
- You can also call the shipper directly and ask if you have a package on the way.
DAY 2: SOCIAL MEDIA SCAMS
Beware of social media scams this holiday season. There are a few things here you want to look out for.
First be wary of raffles or contents, especially anything where you’re asked to put in your financial info. You may have heard of a recent one: secret sister. The scam promises you numerous gift cards if you purchase one $10 card to get things started.
Even if you don’t have to put in your credit card number, scammers could just be looking for more specific information about you.
”Usually those [raffles] are trying to get you to click on a link, where you’re going in an providing personal information that a scammer is harvesting about you,” said Orench. She explained that sometimes scammers use the raffles to gather more information about you then, so they can specifically scam and target you big time later.
Next, the BBB also warns of buying from unknown retailers who might advertise through social media ads. Recently, a faux quilt company promised hand-stitched quilts for Christmas through their ads, but after people purchased them, the company never delivered the merchandise.
Beware of ads that are too good to be true. Like a 35-inch curved TV for just $69? Don’t fall for it.
The BBB found 80 to 90 percent of people failed to recognize fake ads and websites, making them more profitable to scammers than robo-calls.
DAY 3: FAKE CHARITIES
This time of year is also called the giving season. On Day 3 of our 12 Scams of Christmas, we want to highlight phony charities.
The FBI says fake charities advertised on social media, through fake websites or through crowdsourcing sites like Kickstarter.
We asked Orench how scammers trick people into thinking the charity is legitimate. “They shouldn’t hopefully if you’re doing your research. They may be pulling at your heartstrings with a personal story that needs giving.
Orench says phony charities have a tendency to come up more during the holiday season when people are ready to spend more and give more.
“Deal directly with the charities as much as possible. It’s great to give, just do your research and give deliberately,” said Orench.
Don’t let scammers take advantage of your giving spirit this holiday season.
- Much like the fake retailers and fake websites we mentioned on Day 1, avoid clinking on links through social media ads or emails.
- Instead, type the charity into google and research it first.
- Go to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service's website to make sure the charity is registered in Florida.
- You can also check with the BBB.
Don't be embarrassed. These things happen. If you’ve been scammed make sure you report it to at least one (if not all) of the following resources:
Check back tomorrow to find out what holiday scam you should look out for next.