Looking forward to the holidays? So are the scammers. As many begin to make their holiday gift list and charity donations, unscrupulous scammers are gearing up to deck the halls with their tried and true holiday scams. The FTC ranks Maryland as 9th in country for fraud, with over 31,000 consumer complaints filed in 2011 and 5,000 complaints related to identity theft.
Every year, thousands of shoppers fall victim to the holiday deals that seem too good to be true, and the bogus charity pleas that pull at the heart. This holiday season, BBB urges consumers to take the following tips into consideration during when shopping and donating to charity.
Always check the company's BBB Business Review, at www.bbb.org, before making a purchase. Make sure that the company has a physical address and telephone number. When shopping online, some websites offer electronics or luxury goods at prices that are too good to be true. Every holiday season, BBB hears from holiday shoppers who paid for a "great deal" online, but received little or nothing in return.
If you shop on Craigslist or other free bulletin board sites, look for local sellers and conduct transactions in person. Bring a friend if you're uncomfortable meeting the seller alone. Never wire money as payment. If you're shopping on auction sites like eBay, look at seller ratings and read their reviews.
Don't let yourself get bogged down in purchases or lose track of your wallet. While you're struggling with bags of presents, identity thieves may see an opportunity to steal your wallet or look over your shoulder to copy your credit card numbers. Know where your credit and debit cards are at all times and cover the keypad when entering your PIN while purchasing items or getting money from an ATM. Make sure you put your card back in your wallet after each purchase.
Always research charities with BBB before you give to see if the charity meets BBB's 20 Standards for Charity Accountability. The holidays are a time of giving, and that creates an opportunity for scammers to solicit donations to line 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. Resist demands for on-the-spot donations. Up-to-date reports on local and national charities are available at www.give.org.
Don't click on any links or open any attachments to emails until you have confirmed that they are not malicious. Phishing emails are a common way for hackers to access your personal information or break into your computer. Around the holidays, beware of e-cards and messages pretending to be from companies like UPS or FedEx with links to package tracking information. Email addresses that don't match up, typos and grammatical mistakes are common red flags of a malicious phishing email. Also beware of unsolicited emails from companies. Make sure you have current antivirus software and that all security patches have been installed on the computer.