Scams happen year-round, but the holidays are a peak time for swindlers to take advantage of distracted shoppers. Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington reminds consumers to be savvy about the following schemes:
Shopping:Naturally, consumers are drawn in by online deals on "must have" toys, electronics or luxury goods; however, many discover that offers are too good to be true after making purchases. Unscrupulous sellers collect payments and fail to ship items as promised; or never had the advertised items to begin with.
· Be wary when dealing with anonymous sellers on classified ad and online auction websites; if doing so, shop locally and never wire money as payment. When purchasing items on auctions, research sellers extensively. Check out businesses with BBB before purchasing.
Shipping:Phony e-mail notices—purportedly from UPS, FedEx or major retailers—claim there are problems with orders or shipping, and then direct consumers to click on links to resolve issues. Hackers use these phishing e-mails and malicious links to break into computers and steal personal information.
· Don't click on links or open attachments in unsolicited e-mails. Look for red flags: typos, grammatical mistakes and e-mail addresses from unfamiliar senders. If an e-mail appears to be from a trusted business or organization, visit the official website—through a search engine—to contact for verification. Lastly, ensure that current antivirus software and security patches have been installed on computers.
Stealing:Malls, stores, and parking lots may be filled with prowlers looking to steal purses, wallets, credit cards and cell phones—and even gifts.
· While shopping, don't leave gifts and shopping bags in viewing range; hide them in the trunk—discreetly. If purchasing items at the register or getting money from the ATM, cover the keypad when entering in pin numbers. Store credit and debit cards in a secure location.Avoid carrying too much at once; thieves prey on distracted or occupied shoppers with arms full of gifts.
For more holiday shopping advice, visit www.bbb.org/us/consumer-tips-holiday.