A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

BBB Trends: Naughty, not nice — watch for scammers (the Scrooges!) this holiday season

By Sandra Guile
Better Business Bureau

The 2018 holiday season is here and with it comes an abundance of activities – like trimming trees, decking the halls, and plenty of to-do lists. This provides scammers plenty of perfect opportunities to use people’s distraction for their own gain.

Some scam artists got an early start, swapping out UPC codes on the backside of gift cards with fake ones before the Thanksgiving holiday. This meant that when a customer bought one of the cards with a false UPC, the money that should’ve activated the card was redirected to the scammer’s account.

When buying gift cards either for personal use or as a gift for someone else, double check the package containing the card. Look for signs that it has been tampered with or if anything’s been placed over the original barcode. If you do find a defective card, report it to the retailer immediately.

Another common scam that occurs during the holidays is the package delivery scam. Because the volume of online orders goes up during the holiday season, the U.S. Postal Service expects to deliver more than 15 billion pieces of mail and 900 million packages between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

This is the prime time for a scammer to say they’re with a popular shipping company – like Amazon or UPS – and ask for personal information.

Not only can this scam be perpetuated over the phone or online, but some scammers will also leave a note that includes a phone number or website on the door of their intended victim, indicating that they need to use those contact methods in order for the package to be delivered. Once they call or email, the scam is the same – the person on the other end asks for sensitive data in exchange for the parcel.

Before calling the number on the note, look up the contact information to make sure it’s not part of a scam. If you do call and they begin asking questions rather than offering to schedule a delivery, hang up. Any mention of payment or personal information should be a red flag. Remember, most shipping services allow you to check the status of your delivery by signing up for text or email alerts. Many will attempt to deliver a package at least three times before contacting you directly.

This holiday season, do your part to promote goodwill to all. If you suspect a call, a note, or email might be part of a scam, report it to BBB’s Scam Tracker to keep the season merry and bright.

Sandra Guile is the Community Outreach Specialist for BBB. She promotes BBB’s message of marketplace ethics through public speaking engagements, presentations, media relations, press releases, web content, and other written materials. Your BBB is located at 1 East 4th Street Suite 600 Cincinnati, Ohio 45202 – to reach the office, call 513-421-3015.

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