December 1, 2012

BBB: Santa’s bag is dwarfed by scammers’ bag of tricks

The holiday season is an active time for everyone, and that definitely includes the unscrupulous.

The holiday season is an active time for everyone, and that definitely includes the unscrupulous.

In their efforts to gain advantage over consumers, fraudsters will do anything short of climbing down your chimney this December. The Better Business Bureau advises that you educate yourself about the many schemes in use through the holidays, especially those involving social media.

McAfee Internet Security, the world’s largest dedicated online security company, says that one-third of mobile digital device owners fail to provide adequate protection for themselves. Accordingly, this season of increased shopping can make those consumers easy targets for tech-savvy fraudsters.

A study by Adobe Digital Publishing reports that 21 percent of total online sales will come from mobile devices, mainly tablets, this holiday season. They forecast a 110 percent increase over 2011 online sales.

Here is a list of some common scams that McAfee says to watch out for as you do your digital shopping this year:

• Social media scams such as online contests, fan page deals or apps to receive huge discounts, even if shared by a “friend.” Social media accounts can be hacked. The “friend” my not be your actual friend.
• Malicious phone apps can promise discounts but instead steal your personal information or send out premium-rate text messages without your knowledge.
• Phony e-tailers can have real-looking websites that seem to promote great deals but only exist to get you to enter your personal information for their fraudulent gain.
• Infected e-cards may contain spyware or viruses. Think twice before opening cards, especially if you do not recognize the sender’s name or address.
• Free Apple product scams are prevalent, like the one that promises a “free-iPad.” This is a phishing attempt. This apple contains a worm that is out to hook your personal information.
• Skype scam. Do not click on unfamiliar links that are sent to your Skype chatbox. They can infect your computer and swipe your personal information.
• Fake “you’ve won a free gift card!” scams continue in abundance, sometimes claiming it’s a Best Buy, Wal-Mart or Target card. This is yet another smishing effort: a text message that wants you to click on a link so the sender can steal – you guessed it – your personal information.
• Phony classified ads can seem appealing as a way to buy gifts at less expense or as a way to make some holiday money with a listed part-time job. When you respond to these ads and they begin to request your personal information, it’s time to discontinue the conversation.

If instead of seasonal shopping you are seeking to give some holiday help to those less fortunate with a charitable contribution, by all means do so, but do so carefully. Fake charities are out there.

If the name of the organization is unfamiliar to you, do some research before donating. Actually, even if the name does sound vaguely familiar, check them out; some fake charities intentionally use names similar to well known charities, hoping you won’t notice.

One resource for researching a charity is the BBB’s Wise Giving Alliance. When you have questions about suspicious online shopping activity or charitable giving through the holidays, contact your Better Business Bureau at 800-856-2417 or www.kansasplains.bbb.org.

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