Becoming a victim to identity thieves, hackers and deceptive online merchants is enough to spoil anyone's holiday cheer. Therefore, Better Business Bureau serving Greater Maryland advises holiday shoppers to look out for these common scams.
Package Delivery Scam
The scam begins with an e-mail that includes a phony tracking number informing you that there was a package delivery error. You'll be instructed to open an attachment to print out the correct delivery label. Then, you should take it to the nearest UPS/FedEx/DHL/USPS office. By opening the attachment, you'll expose your computer to malware and virus attacks.
BBB Advice: Be cautious of these emails, especially if you did not send a package or request one. If you are expecting a package, only use the original tracking number provided in the initial confirmation and track through the store's website.
Counterfeit Sites & Counterfeit Gifts
Some web sites offer electronics or luxury goods at prices that are too good to be true. Every holiday season, BBB hears from shoppers who paid for a supposedly great deal online, but received nothing in return. Cheap prices may be a trap.
BBB Advice: Shop online by purchasing goods directly from the manufacturer or major known retailer. The holidays are not the best time to explore new retail shopping sites as they may be bogus. Make sure you choose sites that are secured by confirming that the URL link begins with an "https". Also look for a small padlock icon usually located at the corner of the URL bar.
Bogus Charitable Pleas
The holidays are a time of giving which also creates an opportunity for scammers to solicit donations and fill their own pockets. Beware of solicitations from charities that don't necessarily deliver on their promises or are ill-equipped to carry through on their plans. Many scammers will use names that closely resemble the name of a well-known organization and set-up phony donations web sites.
BBB Advice: Don't be fooled by imposters. Confirm existence of the charity and how proceeds are spent through the IRS, Maryland Charities Database and BBB Charity Reports. Always contribute by check, and only make checks out to the charity, not individual names.
This fraudulent e-mail claims to contain an electronic greeting card from an anonymous individual, such as a friend or classmate. It claim to be from a legitimate greeting card company and tells consumers to click on a link to view their e-card. Clicking on the link can possibly expose a person's computer to a virus.
BBB Advice: If you receive one of these e-cards from a generic "friend," or from a person whose e-mail you don't recognize, delete it. Visit the greeting card company's web site, put in the card number and confirm it is legit. Keep a resolution to use and update your computer's antivirus software.
Surveys Offering Holiday Spending Cash
In an effort to take advantage of cash-strapped holiday shoppers, scammers are posing as popular retailers and e-mailing fake surveys to consumers. One e-mail has a subject line that reads, Online Survey from Wal-Mart Stores!!!. The body of the message states:
This survey has been sent only to a few people from our random generator!You've been selected to take part in our quick and easy 9 questions survey. In return, we will credit $90 to your account - Just for your time!
The e-mail includes a link to a web site where the recipient is supposed to take the survey, but navigates to a site asking for personal information.
BBB Advice: Be wary of "give-a-ways" during the holiday season and never enter personal information such as bank account, date of birth or social security number into a site that promises to "deposit" money. Don't be guilty of spreading this "un-joy" by sharing these bogus surveys with your friends through social media.
For more tips on holiday shopping, visit www.greatermd.bbb.org.