116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
What to watch out for this holiday season
While 2021 is quickly winding down, scams targeting the public continue. Businesses and consumers need to be vigilant about watching for fraudulent schemes likely to catch them off guard.
Many scams on this list are facilitated through emails impersonating legitimate or sound-alike businesses and on social media.
Exercise caution with social media ads about job opportunities, discounted items, event promotions and donation requests, as well as messages from strangers.
If you are asked for payment by wire or e-transfer, through third parties or by prepaid cards, treat this as a red flag.
1. Misleading social media ads: On your feed, you see items for sale with great prices. BBB Scam Tracker reports people paying for items that they never receive, monthly charges for free trials or receiving counterfeit or different items then advertised.
2. Social media gift exchanges: One version exchanges wine, another suggests purchasing $10 gifts for strangers to "pay it forward."
Participants unwittingly share personal information, are tricked into buying and shipping gifts/money plus it's an illegal pyramid scheme.
3. Holiday apps: Apple's App Store and Google Play list dozens of holiday-themed apps for children.
With limited in-person Santa visits, apps play an important role. Review privacy policies to see what information is collected.
4. Compromised accounts: A prevalent con claims your Amazon.com, Paypal, Netflix or bank account has been compromised.
Businesses and individuals receive messages claiming suspicious activity. Be suspect of unsolicited calls, emails and texts.
Don’t click on links or share personal information.
5. Free gift cards: Nothing brings good cheer like the word “free.” Bulk phishing emails request personal information to receive free gift cards or scammers impersonate known legitimate companies.
Don’t open these emails or follow links.
6. Temporary holiday jobs: Many businesses hire seasonal workers to meet holiday demand.
Business ID theft is rampant and job seekers face employment scams aimed at stealing money and personal information. Be leery of opportunities that seem too good to be true.
7. Look-alike websites: The holidays bring emails offering deals, sales and bargains.
Links go to look-alike websites by scammers to trick people into downloading malware, making dead-end purchases and sharing private information.
Business ID thieves use this variation to prey on legitimate companies and utilize their reputations so closely monitor complaints and reviews.
8. Fake charities: About 40 percent of charitable donations are received during the last few weeks of the year.
Due to the pandemic, many organizations cancelled their usual fundraising events and campaigns so are inviting donors to support online. Verify a charity at BBB's give.org.
9. Fake shipping notifications: With increased purchases online, there are more notifications about shipping details. Phone calls impersonating online retailers are widespread.
Phishing email links may allow unwanted access to private information or attach malware.
10. Pop-up holiday virtual events: Many local in-person events such as pop-up holiday markets or craft fairs have moved online.
Scammers are creating fake event pages, social media posts and emails and charging admission. The goal is to steal credit card information.
11. Top holiday wish list items: Low or ridiculously priced luxury goods, jewelry, designer clothing and electronics are almost always cheap counterfeits and knockoffs.
Specialty toys and game consoles are in high demand, so be if cautious when purchasing.
12. Puppy scams: Many considering adding a pet could fall victim to a scam, which are on the rise.
Low prices, free shipping and excuses to only communicate by email or text are hallmarks of these scams. Ask to see the pet in person before making a purchase.
Check bbb.org or call 1-800-222-1600 for more information.
Bobby Hansen is regional director for the Better Business Bureau Cedar Rapids office; (319) 365-1190.