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BBB alert: 'Tis the season for holiday scams

The holidays are a happy time for food, family, and friendship, but they are also a time for fraud. Consumers can fall into any number of traps over the holidays and become victim to identity thieves, hackers and deceptive merchants online.
“While the rest of us are pulling decorations out of the attic, scammers are dusting off holiday scams,” said BBB President Tom Bartholomy. The BBB warns you to look out for five common scams during the holiday season.
1. Scam shopping sites online – We’re all looking for a great deal online, but some sites offer electronics or luxury goods at prices that are too good to be true. Don’t fall for what seems like a great deal online because you may not receive anything in return.
BBB advice: When shopping online, check the business out with the BBB before you buy.
2. Finding the season’s hottest toys and gadgets online – Every year, holiday shoppers fight over the latest toy or gadget of the season. When the item is sold out in stores, you can often find it online through sites like Craigslist or eBay – for a much steeper price. The problem is that some sellers will take your money and run.
BBB advice: Shop locally on Craigslist and conduct the transaction in person-never wire money as payment. When purchasing items on auction sites like eBay, research the seller to see what their track record of satisfied customers is.
3. Identity theft at the mall – While you’re struggling at the mall with bags of presents, identity thieves see an opportunity to steal your wallet and debit or credit card numbers.
BBB advice: Carry only the debit or credit cards that you need and keep them in a front pocket or cross-body purse, so that your hands are free to carry shopping bags.
4. Bogus charitable pleas – The holidays are a time of giving and a time for being scammed. If you are in the giving spirit. Give directly to your favorite cause or charity and avoid telephone or email solicitations.
BBB advice: Always research a charity with the BBB Wise Giving Alliance before you give to see if the charity meets the 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.
5. Phishing e-mails – Phishing e-mails are a common way for hackers to get at your personal information or break into your computer. Common phishing e-mails include e-cards and messages pretending to be from companies like UPS or Fedex with links to package tracking information. BBB advice: Don’t click on any links or open any attachments in unknown e-mails. Typos and grammatical mistakes are common red flags of phishing scams. Make sure you have current antivirus software installed on the computer.
For more information, please visit BBB or call 1-877-317-7236 toll-free in N.C. and S.C.

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