As the holiday shopping season reaches its peak, scammers are crafting schemes and counting on your distraction to trick you. Fortunately, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have helpful tips to help keep you safe.

Look out for virtual event scams

Because of COVID-19, many in-person events are going virtual—including craft fairs and holiday markets. Con artists are capitalizing on this and sometimes setting up fake social media pages for real events. The BBB says scammers sell “tickets” for the event and require you to enter your credit card info, name, and address which they then steal. In other cases, the virtual event may include links to “vendor sites” that just download malware onto your computer.

The BBB says to avoid these scams you should:

  • Ask about the admission fee. If there doesn’t seem to be one on the event website, watch for scammers trying to claim otherwise. Message the event coordinator to help prevent other virtual attendees from being scammed.
  • Research vendors and the host before you start shopping. While virtually browsing from booth to booth, make sure you are only clicking on the links provided. If you are unsure if a shop is legitimate do an online search for that vendor’s store rather than follow the link provided.
  • Use a credit card. This way if anything gets charged that wasn’t supposed to be, you can file a claim with your credit card company.
  • Keep your receipts. If you have a question about a product or need to make a return, you will have the vendor’s information readily available.
  • Know the return policy. Before making a purchase, ask the vendor what their return policy is so you will not run into issues after the holidays.

Don’t break the gift card rules

As the seasons gets more frantic, many of us look for fast, easy gifts—and one of the most popular is gift cards.

The FTC warns that, “gift cards also are a favorite way for scammers to steal people’s money. Anyone who demands that you pay them with a gift card, for any reason, is always a scammer. Simply put, no matter what the story is, never pay with a gift card.”

The agency also advises that you should:

  • Buy gift cards from sources you know and trust. Think twice about buying gift cards from online auction sites, to avoid buying fake or stolen cards.
    Inspect gift cards before you buy. A gift card should have all its protective stickers in place. Report the card to the store if anything looks scratched off or damaged.
    When you buy, save the receipt. Keeping the gift card receipt can be helpful if you run into problems with the card.
    Treat gift cards like cash. Report a lost or stolen gift card to the card’s issuer immediately. Most card issuers have toll-free numbers you can find online to report a lost or stolen card. Depending on the card issuer, you may even be able to get some money back.

Don’t fall for delivery scams

The BBB says there are three popular delivery scams happening this year. First, there are phishing texts and emails with “tracking links” saying there’s a problem with a delivery. That link either downloads malware or takes you to a form that asks for personally identifying information. The second involves fake “missed delivery” tags. The note on your door urges you to call to reschedule a delivery, but actually is just a scheme to get personal information. The third is just plain package theft from porch pirates.

To protect yourself, the Bureau says you should:

  • Take precautions. Consider purchasing shipping insurance and track your packages so you know what’s coming.
  • Be cautious about texts, calls, or emails about missed deliveries. Think before clicking any links or go to the carrier’s site directly and use their tracking tools. Examine any notices left at your door carefully to make sure it’s authentic before following the instructions given.
  • Request a signature. A delivery service can’t leave a package without one, so it won’t get left for porch pirates.
  • Avoid leaving packages sitting on your doorstep. Track your packages and ask a neighbor to grab them. Some delivery services now have lockers where you can securely pick them up using a one-time code.

For more holiday tips, visit the BBB’s website. The FTC is also counting down 12 days of Consumer Protection on their blog so be sure to follow along!

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