Jeremy C. Park talks with Robyn Householder, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau (BBB), Serving Middle Tennessee and Southern Kentucky. In this conversation, Householder highlights their efforts to foster an ethical marketplace and then discusses a recent list posted to BBB.org highlighting the 12 scams you need to know about this holiday season. The list will help avoid common fraud and use your money to support ethical and trusted companies in our local market.
BBB is a nonprofit focused on advancing marketplace trust and has been around since 1912. They are known for using education, intervention and scam awareness to assist buyers and sellers in advancing marketplace trust.
Key takeaways from the conversation:
Fraud has a multiplier effect- Fraud does not just affect those who lose money. For every victim who lost money, that meant less income to buy groceries, gifts, pay the utility bill, or the loss of personal information that could lead to identity theft.
Online shopping and general adoption- From charities hosting fundraisers online to apps that video call Santa, people adopted online alternatives to traditional in-person experiences. The transition to digital options was a wonderful experience for many, but Householder notes that scammers go where there is an opportunity. She says that this transition has led to a dramatic rise of over 10% rise in online purchase scams from 2019 to 2020.
Householder tells Jeremy, “Gone are the days where our main concern was for our grandmas getting taken advantage of by con artist. The main age demographic of those losing money to con artists is now 24–35-year-old.”
Social media- While social media has many great benefits, Householder points out that it has become a real problem because of con artists. Many of them have adopted legitimate ways of using AI and digital advertising to get in front of a much larger audience to take their money.
Always do research- Before making a purchase, do a quick search for the business in question. Do they have valid contact information? Do not be fooled by professional photography or consumer reviews on their website. These can be lifted from other sites. Do your research and visit pages like BBB.org/holiday to find all the latest information from BBB.
BBB’s list of 12 Scams to know this holiday season:
- Misleading Social Media Ads
- Social Media Gift Exchanges
- Holiday Apps
- Alerts About Compromised Accounts
- Free Gift Cards
- Temporary Holiday Jobs
- Look-Alike Websites
- Fake Charities
- Fake Shipping Notifications:
- Pop Up Holiday Virtual Events
- Top Holiday Wishlist Items
- Puppy Scams
1 Misleading Social Media Ads: Many customers have reported to BBB Scam Tracker purchasing based on business advertisements and then have either received an inadequate quality counterfeit or have received something significantly different from what they ordered. The BBB advises taking a step back and researching the company before making purchases from online advertisements.
Read more from BBB about misleading ads. free trial offers, and counterfeit goods.
2 Social Media Gift Exchanges: BBB says this scam is like an online Secret Santa with an illegal pyramid scheme twist. Individuals are asked to buy something small like a toy for a dog or a bottle of wine. Then the gift purchased by the individual is mailed to someone else with the promise of receiving many gifts back from other participants.
Learn more about social media gift exchange from BBB.
3 Holiday Apps: BBB warns parents of holiday Apps that are offered on phones and other devices. They say to review privacy policies to see what information will be collected as some may collect more personal information than a guardian may prefer.
Learn more about holiday apps from BBB.
4 Alerts About Compromised Accounts: BBB says they have received reports from con artists claiming that an individual’s account has been compromised by text or email. They say that the account can be for anything from a streaming service to a bank. Be extra cautious about unsolicited calls, emails, and texts.
Learn more about compromised accounts scams from BBB.
5 Free Gift Cards: BBB says that scammers have been known to take advantage of the word “FREE” by sending bulk phishing emails requesting personal information to receive “free gift cards.” According to reports to BBB Scam Tracker, con artist often impersonates large legitimate companies like Starbucks and claim the gift cards are for supporting their business throughout the pandemic.
Learn more about gift card scams from BBB.
6 Temporary Holiday Jobs: Many employers are looking for individuals to fill some of the open positions this holiday season. BBB has warned that typically, this means potential employment scams will also be online, so “Keep an eye out for opportunities that seem too good to be true.”
Learn more about holiday job scams from BBB.
7 Look-Alike Websites: The holiday season often brings an increase of emails offering deals, sales and bargains. BBB notes that individuals should be wary of emails with links enclosed and always double-check URLs when on websites.
Learn more about look-alike websites from BBB.
8 Fake Charities: BBB’s give.org notes that many organizations canceled their usual fundraising events and awareness campaigns and are now inviting donors to support online. BBB wants to remind people to verify a charity before donating.
Learn more about fake charities from BBB.
9 Fake Shipping Notifications: BBB warns that scammers have started sending individuals fake shipping notifications due to increased online shopping. They say this has let con artists download malware or convince individuals to pay for nonexistent shipping fees.
Learn more about delivery and package scams from BBB.
10 Pop Up Holiday Virtual Events: Experts believe that many local in-person events such as pop-up holiday markets or craft fairs will continue to be hosted online. BBB says this can lead to fake events created to gain personal information and entry fees.
Learn more about pop up holiday shops from BBB.
11 Top Holiday Wishlist Items: Experts at BBB say to “be very cautious when considering purchasing high-value items from individuals through social sites,” like game consoles or jewelry.
Learn more about holiday hot toy scams from BBB.
12 Puppy Scams: BBB says pet scams are on the rise this year. Experts at BBB also say that traditionally the holiday season is the peak period for this scam. Request to see the pet in person before making a purchase.
Learn more about pet scams from BBB.