You better be careful, because the Better Business Bureau (BBB) has released its annual “naughty list” of the best vacation scams shoppers can expect this season.
Fortunately for consumers, the ethical nonprofit marketplace has also published tips on how to avoid being a victim of fraud.
“As 2021 draws to a close, scams targeting the public continue to cause problems,” the company wrote in a statement, adding that buyers are particularly vulnerable to scams operating on social media platforms. “Consumers should be careful of any fraudulent schemes aimed at stealing their money and stealing personal information. “
The BBB found that deceptive social media ads were the most frequently reported type of scam throughout 2020 and was also the category with the most victims, accounting for around 38% of the total reports the bureau received. over the past year.
The BBB expects the trend to continue this holiday season and warns consumers to be wary of advertisements offering free trials, charitable donations in exchange for a purchase, or significant price drops on items generally. expensive. Affected buyers can view a company’s reviews on the BBB website and can also submit a report if they believe they’ve been scammed.
Social media gift swaps have become increasingly popular in recent years, giving fraudsters more opportunities to steal personal information from unsuspecting buyers.
The trend emerged several years ago via Facebook, when a so-called “Secret Sister” post went viral, promising to exchange up to 36 gifts for $ 10. A newer version of the scam, called “Secret Santa Dog,” required users to purchase a $ 10 gift for a dog in exchange for their own gifts.
The BBB has repeatedly warned that “Secret Sister” and other related exchanges are in fact pyramid schemes, which are illegal in the United States and Canada. According to the US Postal Inspection Service, pyramid schemes are “similar to a tiered marketing system, [but] pyramid schemes promise investors large profits primarily based on recruiting other people to join their program, not the profits from an actual investment or actual sale of goods to the public.
The BBB offers four specific tips for avoiding pyramid schemes that come from social media: ignore the offer, report social media posts, never give out personal information to dubious people or businesses online, and beware. statements that sound too good to be true.
Parents should also be wary of holiday-themed app scams, some of which became more popular during the coronavirus pandemic, when many chose not to visit malls with Santa Claus or group carols.
“The Apple App Store and Google Play Dozen List[s] Holiday-themed apps: kids can video chat live with Santa himself, light up the menorah, watch Santa feed reindeer live, follow his sleigh on Christmas Eve or relay their lists of Christmas wishes, ”the BBB wrote in part. “Before you allow a child to download an app, make sure the data they collect and define the permission requirements. ”
BBB says parents should read the fine print before downloading apps that might request or collect personal information like an email address, address, or phone number, or that may require additional in-app purchases. But even free apps, some of which don’t display ads, may have third-party code collecting data for later ad targeting.
Pet scams, which are common during the holiday season, have increased exponentially during the coronavirus pandemic, and experts warn there could be an influx of deceptive pet adoption offers in line.
The BBB recommends that anyone trying to buy a pet ask to see the pet in person before offering payment, and only buy it from reputable organizations or breeders.
The BBB received 4,300 reports of pet scams last year, up from 1,870 the year before. About 70% of people lose money because of such schemes, and the median amount lost due to pet fraud last year was $ 750.
Check out the full list of top BBB vacation scams here.