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Buyers beware the 12 ‘Scams of Christmas’, warns B.C.’s Better Business Bureau

Click to play video: 'BBB warns consumers of top holiday scams heading into Christmas' BBB warns consumers of top holiday scams heading into Christmas
The Better Business Bureau is out with its top scams this holiday season. As Tomasia DaSilva reports, they mostly focus on online purchases – Dec 8, 2021

As the holidays draw near, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Mainland B.C. is warning consumers about a handful of online scams whose consequences could be costly.

Most are facilitated through emails and social media platforms, according to the non-profit, whose goal is to connect buyers to businesses they can trust.

On Monday, the BBB released the ’12 Scams of Christmas’ — a list of common fraudulent schemes targeting cash and personal information.

“If you are asked to make a payment or donation by wire or e-transfer, through third parties, by prepaid debit or gift cards, treat this as a red flag,” said the organization in a news release.

Read more: Attempted robberies, assaults prompt Surrey, B.C. police to urge caution to online buyers

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The first scam flagged is ‘misleading social media ads,’ which may claim to offer free trials or donate a portion of proceeds to charity in order to get consumers to order.

“BBB Scam Tracker receives reports of people paying for items that 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,” said the release.

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The organization has also listed ‘social media gift exchanges,’ including the purchase of $10-gifts online and pay-it-forward chains as common schemes, in addition to ‘holiday apps’ that may offer children an opportunity to chat online with Santa, light a menorah or track his sleigh.

“Review privacy policies to see what information will be collected,” the BBB wrote of apps on offer both for Apple and Android.

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“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.”

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The fourth and fifth scams of Christmas are ‘alerts about compromised accounts,’ which often come with unsolicited calls, texts and emails, and ‘free gift cards,’ which usually request personal information.

Consumers should not open those emails or click any links, the BBB warned, and scammers will often attempt to impersonate legitimate companies to fool you.

Scams six and seven are ‘temporary holiday jobs’ and ‘look-alike websites.’

The former may offer seasonal work to meet the demands of the holidays while requiring money and personal information from the job-seeker. The latter may offer “endless emails” about sales and bargains while tricking people into downloading malware and sharing private information.

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The BBB is also warning British Columbians about ‘fake charities’ that attempt to solicit donations online. To avoid falling prey to such scammers, it recommended donating to familiar organizations only.

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Consumers may run into ‘fake shipping notifications’ as well, which may be phishing emails whose links allow unwanted access to private information or encourage consumers to pay bogus shipping fees.

The tenth and eleventh scams are ‘pop-up holiday virtual events’ and ‘top holiday wish list items,’ in which scammers charge admission online for what used to be a free event, or offer expensive goods for unbelievably low prices — most often fakes and knockoffs.

Read more: Spotting online holiday shopping scams

The final scam of Christmas is the ‘puppy scam,’ said the BBB, which is on the rise in 2021.

“Request to see the pet in person before making a purchase,” said the organization.

Overall, the BBB is advising consumers to do their “homework” before clicking links or purchasing items online. Research a seller first, it said, hover over a link to see where it leads, and when in doubt, dump emails into the junk or spam folder.

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