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Heightened Scammer Activity Requires Heightened Vigilance by Consumers


LETHBRIDGE:  It doesn't matter if you have finished your Christmas shopping or are still dodging your way through crowded malls and snow-covered streets to specialty shops -- scams are at the peak during this time of year.


Buying gifts and donating to charities presents (no pun intended) countless opportunities for scammers to swindle consumers out of personal information and hard earned money, so you're encouraged to be on the look-out for people trying to take advantage of the situation.

To help fend off the onslaught of potential pitfalls, the Better Business Bureau is out with the "12 Scams of Christmas". Many of these scams are a problem throughout the year.

12. Malware e-cards: Viruses and malware often travel in e-mail attachments or links. Don't click on e-mails from someone you don't know or a name you don't recognize. When it doubt, delete!

11. Stranded grandkids: It's the classic "grandparent scam." If your grandchild, other relative or friend calls or e-mails to say they were robbed or hurt overseas, check before wiring money. (This can happen anywhere in the country. As a point of fact, just this week, RCMP in several communities in Southern Alberta, including Brooks, have sent out warnings about this scam surfacing locally).

10. Counterfeit gifts: Low prices on luxury goods are almost always cheap counterfeits. At best, you'll look like a Scrooge. At worst, you may be helping finance drug traffickers or terrorists.

9. Pickpockets: Need we say more? Keep your purse or wallet secure when shopping. Don't get overburdened or put shopping bags down, even for a moment. Thieves are watching!

8. Stolen gift cards: Buy gift cards only from reputable dealers, not online or from individuals. It's easy for a scammer to sell you the card and then pull off the funds before you can even give the gift.

7. Fake coupons: Be cautious when downloading coupons. Always make sure you are at a retailer's real website. Be especially careful with coupon sites that ask for personal information.

6. Santa scammers: What could be jollier than a letter from Santa addressed directly to your child? Make sure the site is real and not gathering your data for identity theft purposes.

5. Fake charities: Charities count on end-of-the-year giving, so be generous if you can. But be careful too, because scammers set up fake charities with similar sounding names.

4. Bogus websites: It's easy to mimic a real website, with logos and terminology. Red flags: http (not the more secure https), no contact information, asking for payment by wire or money card.

3. Travel scams: With busy holiday travel, bargains may be tempting. Be cautious when booking through online ads, never wire money to someone you don't know and ask for references.

2. Romance scams: Everyone wants a special someone under the mistletoe, so holidays are prime time for scams. Be careful with an online sweetheart who gets cozy too fast or asks for money.

1. Puppy scams: Be very careful buying pets online, especially during the holidays. You may get a puppy mill pooch with problems, or you may get nothing at all because it was a scam.


There is still a lot of confusion about the ever-popular gift cards. Below, we quote verbatim from a BBB news release regarding the purchase of gift cards:


Know the rules. There is a difference between retail and bank gift cards. Retail gift cards can only be redeemed at the retailers and restaurants that sell them. Bank gift cards, which carry the logo of a payment card network like American Express, Visa, or Mastercard can be used wherever the brand is accepted.

Check it out. Make sure you are buying from known and trusted source. It is suggested to only buy from retailers you have purchased from before and are familiar with. Always check out a new business at www.bbb.org. Avoid online auction sites, because the cards sold there may be counterfeit, may have been obtained fraudulently or may only be redeemable in certain geographic locations.

Read the fine print before buying. Is there a fee to buy the card? Are there shipping and handling fees for cards bought by phone or online? Will any fees be deducted from the card after it is purchased? Is there an expiration date on the card?

Inspect the card before buying it. Verify that no protective stickers have been removed and that the codes on the back of the card haven t been scratched off to reveal a PIN number. Report any damaged cards to the store selling the card.


For more consumer tips you can trust, visit http://calgary.bbb.org/

Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 4/16/2014 1:15:58 PM
Source: Tristan Tuckett (@TristanTuckett on Twitter) - *Trade-mark of the Council of Better Business Bureaus used under License.
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