Editorial: Scam artists among us for holidays

Dec. 19, 2013 @ 06:02 PM

The Saturday before Christmas represents one of the biggest shopping days of the year, if not the largest.

Many will not want to get into the fray, and are going to opt for an online option. While the timing may be risky, there’s an even greater risk.

The Better Business Bureau of Eastern North Carolina has tips for spotting holiday scammers. We pass them along as a neighborly service with hopes all of our friends in the Tri-County will be safe.

North Carolina’s Consumer Protection Division is a phone call away at (877) 5 NO-SCAM when there are questions about companies. Online, type in the suspect company’s name and put the word scam behind it to learn more.

According to the bureau, we could come in contact with scams for malware e-cards, package delivery, bogus charitable pleas, counterfeit gifts, gift cards and fictitious pets.

Utilizing the hyperlink with e-cards is a way for the scam artists to install a virus on the consumer’s computer. To test it, hover the mouse over the link without clicking. The destination link should become visible.

Emails with tracking numbers, shipping companies and a report of a problem with delivery are a red flag. Well-known companies are often impersonated. Before opening an attachment, contact the delivery company.

Charity is good, but not when the organization is bogus. Verify them before donating, using links to bbb.org, give.org, charitywatch.org, guidestar.org, charitynavigator.org and IRS.gov. Worth noting, give.org is aligned with standards of the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance.

Counterfeit gifts can come from online deals too good to be true. They were. Direct purchases from manufacturers and major known retailers is encouraged, and seeing “https” and not just “http” in the address bar is a good rule of thumb when asked for bank or card information online.

The BBB recommends refraining from response to text message on gift cards. Also, be aware scammers can sell a card and use the funds before it goes into a stocking or under the tree.

If purchasing a pet, whether breeders or Craigslist or someone sending a picture, be aware often money is wired and no pet or person on the other end is ever heard from again.

If in doubt, or it seems too good, do the homework first.