BBB: Be aware of scams that can lead to a blue Christmas

Lane Montz, President, CEO, Better Business Bureau

        With 2023 quickly winding down, Better Business Bureau has once again compiled its naughty list of the top 12 Scams of Christmas.
        Most of these scams have two goals – to  steal your personal information to be used later or be sold to criminal organizations and/or to steal your money outright. Both can really put a damper on one’s Christmas cheer, so always exercise caution with social media ads promoting discounted items, holiday events, job opportunities, and donation requests, as well as direct messages from strangers.
        If you are asked to make a payment or donation by wire transfer, through a third party, or by prepaid debit or gift card, treat it as a red flag.
        • Misleading social media ads: As you scroll through your social media feed, you often see products advertised. Always research before you buy. BBB Scam Tracker receives daily reports of people paying for items that they never receive, getting charged monthly for a free trial they never signed up for or receiving an item that is counterfeit or much different from the one advertised. The 2022 BBB Online Scams Report found that online purchase scams were the most common cons reported to Scam Tracker. Before ordering, check out the business profile on and read the reviews.
        Watch out for:
        • Social media gift exchanges: Each holiday season, this scheme pops back up, and this year is no different. The older version was called “Secret Sister.” A newer version of this scam revolves around exchanging bottles of wine; another suggests purchasing $10 gifts online. Another twist asks you to submit your email to a list where participants get to pick a name and send money to strangers to “pay it forward.”
        There is even a twist about “Secret Santa Dog” where you buy a $10 gift for your “secret dog.” In all of these versions, participants unwittingly share their personal information, along with those of their family members and friends, and are further tricked into buying and shipping gifts or money to unknown individuals. And – it's an illegal pyramid scheme. Stick to buying your friends gifts from trustworthy businesses, and check before you buy.
        • Holiday apps: Apple’s App Store and Google Play list dozens of holiday-themed apps where children can video chat live with Santa, light a menorah, watch Santa feed live reindeer, track his sleigh on Christmas Eve, or relay their holiday wish lists. Review privacy policies to see what information will be collected.
        Be wary of free apps, as they can sometimes contain more advertising than apps that require a nominal fee. Free apps can also contain malware. Be sure to read reviews as well.
        •  Fake texts that say you’ve been hacked: BBB receives tons of reports on Scam Tracker about fake texts and emails, many of them claiming your Amazon, PayPal, Netflix or bank account has been compromised. Victims are told there has been suspicious activity on one of their accounts, and it further urges them to take immediate action to prevent the account from being compromised. Be extra cautious about unsolicited calls, emails, and texts; contact the business directly and don't click on any links.
        • Free gift cards: Nothing brings good cheer like the word “free.” Scammers have been known to take advantage of this weakness by sending bulk phishing emails requesting personal information to receive free gift cards. In some of these emails, scammers impersonate legitimate companies and promise gift cards to reward their loyal customers. They may also use pop-up ads or send text messages with links saying you were randomly selected as the winner of a prize.
        If you have received an unsolicited email with gift card offers, do not open it. Instead, mark it as spam or junk. However, if you opened the email, do not click on any links.
        • Temporary holiday jobs: Retailers typically hire seasonal workers to help meet the demands of holiday shoppers. Shippers and delivery services are top holiday employers this year because of the increase in online orders and the need to get most of these packages delivered before Christmas. These jobs are a great way to make extra money, sometimes with the possibility of turning into a long-term employment opportunity. However, job seekers need to be wary of employment scams aimed at stealing money and personal information from job applicants. Keep an eye out for opportunities that seem too good to be true.
        Learn more about misleading ads, free trial offers, counterfeit goods, social media gift exchange scams, and holiday apps on


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