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Better Business Bureau: Unfortunately, scams never take a holiday

There’s no such thing as a holiday from scams.

Consumers need to be extra vigilant, especially at this time of the year, to be sure they aren’t duped out of their funds.

This week the Better Business Bureau concludes our series on the “12 Scams of Christmas” with a look at three more of the favorite methods that crooks use to separate people from their money.

Scam No. 3: Fictitious puppies

The fact that it is never a good idea to make a gift of a pet does not keep some people from trying to give kittens and puppies as presents.

It can be easy to fall for the sweet-faced animals whose images show up in ads online and sometimes in print. Frequently an unusually low price for a breed that’s known to be expensive lures in victims.

A scammer may promise to deliver the pet to the local airport, or even to the buyer’s home if a payment is made to cover the transportation cost. Instead of the promised puppy or kitten, heartbreak is delivered when the reality sets in and the victim waits in vain for the furry bundle of joy.

Avoid becoming a victim of pet scams by remembering these tips:

▪ It is not a good idea to give a pet as a gift.

▪ If you do find yourself compelled by an ad for a pet, read carefully for poor grammar and misspellings because many such scams originate overseas and in countries where English is not the predominate language.

▪ Never wire money to an unknown person.

▪ Prices that look too good to be true almost always are.

▪ Watch out when upfront shipping payments are required.

▪ If a seller won’t communicate by phone but only will by email or text, avoid them.

▪ A requirement for immediacy in payment usually means a scam.

Scam No. 2: Unusual forms of payment

Sellers who request payment in the form of prepaid debit cards, gift cards, wire transfers or money that goes through a third party should be avoided. A scam is probably in the works.

Especially popular with scammers now are prepaid debit cards. They are easily purchased from all sorts of retailers and they are practically impossible to track after purchase. There were more than 85,000 complaints to the FTC about such scams in 2013 alone.

The scheme is also used in connection with utility scams and government agency scams (usually pretending to be from the IRS). Crooks may pose as debt collectors and insist that consumers pay with prepaid debit cards. Once a card has been loaded with money, the scammer asks that the number of the card be provided. With that number they can get access to the cash.

End any transaction in which an unknown person is requiring quick payment with a prepaid debit card or any of the other methods mentioned above.

Scam No. 1: Grandparent scam

The grandparent scam continues to be the chosen method of many criminals, mainly because it continues to work for them.

Playing on the heartstrings of the elderly, crooks bilk thousands of grandparents into sending them money with this plot:

Most often the con comes in the form of an urgent phone call in which the caller identifies themselves by saying, “It’s me,” or “It’s your favorite grandson.” They may even use social media to learn the grandchild’s name.

Then comes a tale of being out of town, maybe out of the country, and having an emergency that requires immediate money. They plead that their parents not be told. It’s all about immediacy and counted-on befuddlement of an older person in order to steal their money.

Stay safe through the holidays and keep your loved ones safe from the assorted schemes of holiday scammers.

Denise Groene is the state director of the Better Business Bureau of Kansas. Contact the bureau at 800-856-2417 or bbbinc.org.

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