Reposted from Better Business Bureau. With the year quickly coming to an end, Better Business Bureau has compiled a naughty list of the top Christmas scams. Don’t fall for schemes that steal your cash or personal information when shopping or donating this holiday season.

You can avoid most of these scams by taking a few simple precautions.

  • Exercise caution with social media ads promoting discounted items, holiday events, job opportunities, donation requests, and direct messages from strangers.
  • If you are asked to pay or donate by wire transfer, through a third party, or by prepaid debit or gift card, treat it as a red flag.

Here are the top 12 scams of Christmas. 

1. Misleading social media ads: You often see products advertised as you scroll through your social media feed. Always research before you buy. BBB Scam Tracker receives daily reports of people paying for items they never receive, getting charged monthly for a free trial they never signed up for, or receiving an item that is counterfeit or much different from the one advertised. The 2022 BBB Online Scams Report found that online purchase scams were the most common cons reported to Scam Tracker.

2. Social media gift exchanges: This scheme pops back up each holiday season, and this year is no different. A newer version of this scam revolves around exchanging bottles of wine; another suggests purchasing $10 gifts online. Another twist asks you to submit your email to a list where participants get to pick a name and send money to strangers to “pay it forward.” There is even a twist about “Secret Santa Dog,” where you buy a $10 gift for your “secret dog.” 

In all these versions, participants unwittingly share their personal information, along with those of their family members and friends, and are further tricked into buying and shipping gifts or money to unknown individuals. And– it’s an illegal pyramid scheme.

3. Holiday apps: Apple’s App Store and Google Play list dozens of holiday-themed apps where children can video chat live with Santa, light the menorah, watch Santa feed live reindeer, track his sleigh on Christmas Eve, or relay their holiday wish lists. Review privacy policies to see what information will be collected. Be wary of free apps, as they can sometimes contain more advertising than apps that require a nominal fee. Free apps can also contain malware.

4. Alerts about compromised accounts: BBB has been receiving reports on Scam Tracker about a con claiming your Amazon, PayPal, Netflix, or bank account has been compromised. Victims receive an email, call, or text message explaining that there has been suspicious activity on one of their accounts. It further urges them to take immediate action to prevent the account from being compromised. Be extra cautious about unsolicited calls, emails, and texts.

5. Free gift cards: Nothing brings good cheer like “FREE.” Scammers have been known to take advantage of this weakness by sending bulk phishing emails requesting personal information to receive free gift cards. In some of these emails, scammers impersonate legitimate companies and promise gift cards to reward loyal customers. They may also use pop-up ads or send text messages with links saying they were randomly selected as the prize winner. 

If you have received an unsolicited email with gift card offers, do not open it. Instead, mark it as spam or junk. However, do not click on any links if you opened the email.

6. Temporary holiday jobs: Retailers typically hire seasonal workers to help meet the demands of holiday shoppers. Shippers and delivery services are top holiday employers this year because of the increase in online orders and the need to deliver most of these packages before Christmas. These jobs are a great way to make extra money, sometimes with the possibility of turning into a long-term employment opportunity. However, job seekers need to be wary of employment scams aimed at stealing money and personal information from job applicants. Keep an eye out for opportunities that seem too good to be true.

7. Look-alike websites: The holiday season brings endless emails offering deals, sales, and bargains. Be wary of emails with links enclosed. Some may lead to look-alike websites created by scammers to trick people into downloading malware, making dead-end purchases, and sharing private information. If you are uncertain about the email, do not click any links. Instead, hover over them to see where they reroute.

8. Fake charities: The last few weeks of the year are busy for charitable donations. Donors are advised to look out for fraudulent charities and scammers pretending to be needy individuals. Avoid impromptu donation decisions to unfamiliar organizations. Responsible organizations will welcome a gift tomorrow as much as they do today. Verify a charity at BBB’s Where possible, donate to the charity through their website and use a credit card.

9. Fake shipping notifications: More consumers are making purchases online, and there is also an increase in the number of notifications about shipping details from retailers and carriers. Scammers are using this new surge to send phishing emails with links enclosed that may allow unwanted access to your private information or download malware onto your device. They may also try to trick people into paying new shipping fees.

10. Pop-up holiday virtual events: Many local in-person events, such as pop-up holiday markets or craft fairs, have moved online. Scammers are creating fake event pages, social media posts, and emails, charging admission for what used to be a free event. The goal is to steal credit card information. Confirm with the organizer of the event if there is an admission fee. In cases where there is a charge, use a credit card. If the event is free, watch for scammers trying to claim otherwise.

11. Top holiday wishlist items: Low-priced luxury goods, jewelry, designer clothing, and electronics are almost always cheap counterfeits and knockoffs. The same applies to popular toys. Be cautious when purchasing these popular toys from resellers on Facebook Marketplace and other platforms. 

12. Puppy scams: Many families may be considering adding a furry friend to their household this year. However, be on the lookout for scams. Many would-be pet owners turn to the internet to find their future cat or dog, but experts say a shocking 80% of sponsored pet advertisements may be fake. Be sure to see the pet in person before making a purchase. 


Read more about other scams that have made the rounds in recent years in our blog series:

Watch Out for the Latest Scams!

How to Avoid Home Health Care Fraud

How Spammers Get Your Email Address

13 Online Safety and Technology Tips for Seniors

Avoid scams and give fraudsters a run for the money

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