With 2023 quickly winding down, Better Business Bureau has once again compiled our naughty list of the top 12 Scams of Christmas – a perennial favorite of our broadcast and print media partners, and their audiences. Rather than sing this lengthy holiday song (that song just takes too darn long!!!) I’ll send out 3 per week for the next month to keep the “scam prevention” juices flowing.
Most of these scams have two goals: (1) steal your personal information to be used later – or be sold to criminal organizations and/or (2) steal your money outright. Both can really put a damper on your Christmas cheer, so when always exercise caution with social media ads promoting discounted items, holiday events, job opportunities, and donation requests, as well as direct messages from strangers. If you are asked to make a payment or donation by wire transfer, through a third party, or by prepaid debit or gift card, treat it as a red flag.
- Misleading social media ads:As you scroll through your social media feed, you often see products advertised. Always research before you buy. BBB Scam Tracker receives daily 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. The 2022 BBB Online Scams Report found that online purchase scams were the most common cons reported to Scam Tracker. Before ordering, check out the business profile on BBB.org and read the reviews.
- Social media gift exchanges: Each holiday season this scheme pops back up, and this year is no different. The older version was called “Secret Sister.” A newer version of this scam revolves around exchanging bottles of wine; another suggests purchasing $10 gifts online.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 to 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. Stick to buying your friends gifts from trustworthy businesses, and check BBB.org before you buy.
- 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. 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. Be sure to read reviews as well.