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MILWAUKEE – It’s easy to get so caught up in holiday activities that you leave yourself open to potential scams. The Better Business Bureau Serving Wisconsin (BBB) advises consumers to stay alert during the holiday season to avoid falling prey to scammers poised to pounce on distracted or overburdened shoppers.
“While we’re checking off items on our shopping lists, fraudsters are working on their holiday scams,” said Ran Hoth, BBB CEO/president. “Be vigilant. Don’t let con artists steal your holiday cheer.”
These four common scams can strike at the mall, online or even in your email:
• Package Delivery Scam: The scam begins with an email that includes a phony tracking number informing you that there was a package delivery error. You’ll be instructed to open an attachment to print out the correct delivery label and take the package to the nearest shipping office. By opening the attachment, you’ll expose your computer to malware and virus attacks.
BBB Advice: Be cautious of these emails, especially if you did not send a package or request one. If you are expecting a package, only use the original tracking number provided in the initial confirmation and track through the store’s website.
• Counterfeit Sites & Counterfeit Gifts: Some web sites offer electronics or luxury goods at prices that are too good to be true. Every holiday season, BBB hears from shoppers who paid for a supposedly great deal online, but received nothing in return. Cheap prices may be a trap.
BBB Advice: Shop online by purchasing goods directly from the manufacturer or major known retailer. Be wary of shopping sites you aren’t familiar with as they may be bogus. Make sure you choose sites that are secured by confirming that the URL link begins with “https.”
• Bogus Charitable Pleas: The holidays are a time of giving which also creates an opportunity for scammers to solicit donations and fill their own pockets. Beware of solicitations from charities you aren’t familiar with. Many scammers will use names that closely resemble the name of a well-known organization and set-up phony donations web sites.
BBB Advice: Don’t be fooled by imposters. Confirm existence of the charity and how proceeds are spent with the BBB at http://www.bbb.org/us/charity. Always contribute by check, and only make checks out to the charity, not individual names.
• Phishing emails: Phishing emails are a common way for hackers to get at your personal information or break into your computer. Around the holidays, beware of e-cards and messages pretending to be from well-known companies or major retailers with links to package tracking information.
BBB Advice: Don’t click on any links or open any attachments to emails until you have confirmed that they are not malicious. Some emails can infect your computer with a virus or download malware if you click a link. Email addresses that don’t match up, typos and grammatical mistakes are common red flags of a malicious phishing email. Also beware of unsolicited emails from companies with which you have no association. Make sure you have current antivirus software installed on your computer.
For more information or further inquiries, contact the Wisconsin BBB at www.wisconsin.bbb.org or 414-847-6000 (metro Milwaukee), 920-734-4352 (Appleton), 608-268-2221 (Madison) or 1-800-273-1002 (elsewhere in Wisconsin). Consumers also can find more information about how to protect themselves from scams by following the Wisconsin BBB on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping consumers find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2012, consumers turned to BBB 124 million times for Business Reviews on more than 4.5 million companies and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for 113 local, independent BBBs across the United States and Canada, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution and industry self-regulation.