NJ residents warned: Don’t fall for the 12 Scams of Christmas
For a lot of New Jersey residents, this is the most wonderful time of the year. But it’s also the time when scammers are coming out of the woodwork, trying to rip you off in a number of different ways.
According to Melissa Companick, the president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of New Jersey, bad actors are trying to access your financial assets and personal information using sneaky ploys.
She said one of the top Christmas scams involves social media ads, where you’ll be scrolling through whatever platform you’re on, you’ll see an item for sale at what appears to be a fabulous discount, you click on it, you place your order and 1 of 2 things can happen.
Your money is gone
“They will take money from you, you will never get your item, or the second thing is that you can get something completely different from what you ordered. I got a report here from somebody who thought they were ordering furniture online, and they received a plastic toy in the mail,” she said.
She said sometimes the business will be willing to give you 20% back if you ship it back to China.
Be suspicious of suspicious activity
Companick said you also need to watch out for texts or email messages supposedly warning you about compromised accounts.
She noted these messages look like they’re coming from well-known companies like Amazon and Netflix, or from a major bank telling you there’s been suspicious activity and you need to click on a link to verify your account.
“You want to be very wary of clicking on unsolicited pop-up messages," she said.
She said another popular Christmas scam involves criminals creating lookalike websites that appear to be very authentic, advertising a game or popular item for a significantly lower price than anybody else, and after you place your order you never receive what you thought you’d be getting.
Check before you click
“You want to do your research on an actual website, check with BBB, check what kind of complaints if any what kind of review we have,” she said.
She said everybody is in a rush during the holidays but “you want to protect your information whenever somebody is asking you to provide banking information, any of your personal information, you want to stop and think why.”
The complete 12 Scams of Christmas list:
🎄 Misleading social media ads: As you scroll through your social media feed, you often see items for sale from a small business. Sometimes the business even claims to support a charity to try to get you to order, or they offer a free trial. 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. Read more about misleading ads. free trial offers, and counterfeit goods.
🎄Social media gift exchanges: Each holiday season this scheme pops back up, 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 into 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 of 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.
🎄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. This holiday season, like the past two years when COVID-19 caused children to skip the traditional in-person visit with Santa, apps may play a more important role than ever. 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.
🎄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 which explains that there has been suspicious activity on one of their accounts, and it further urges them to take immediate action to prevent the account from being compromised. Be extra cautious about unsolicited calls, emails, and texts.
🎄Free gift cards: Nothing brings good cheer like the word '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 like Starbucks and promise gift cards to loyal customers that have been supporting their business throughout the pandemic. They may also use pop-up ads or send text messages with links saying you were randomly selected as the winner for a prize. If you have received an unsolicited email with gift card offers, do not open it. Instead, mark it as Spam or Junk. However, if you opened the email, do not click on any links.
🎄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 get most of these packages delivered 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.
🎄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 of the links. Instead, hover over them to see where they reroute.
🎄Fake charities: Typically, 40% of all charitable donations are received during the last few weeks of the year. Donors are advised to look out for fraudulent charities and scammers pretending to be individuals in need. 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 Give.org or on the Canada Revenue Agency website. Where possible, donate to the charity through their website and use a credit card.
🎄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.
🎄Pop-up holiday virtual events: This year, 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.
🎄Top holiday wishlist items: Low or ridiculously priced luxury goods, jewelry, designer clothing, and electronics are almost always cheap counterfeits and knockoffs. This year, the Galactic Snackin’ Grogu Animatronic (aka Baby Yoda) and game consoles are some of the items in high demand. Be very cautious when considering purchasing these high-value items from individuals through social sites.
🎄Puppy scams: Many families, especially those with children, may be considering adding a furry friend to their household this year. However, you could fall victim to pet scams, which are on the rise this year. Request to see the pet in person before making a purchase.
For more information on how to avoid scams, you can visit BBB.org/AvoidScams.
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