BBB makes ‘naughty list’ of 12 top Christmas scams to watch out for

On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave me … a scam?

As the year draws to a close and the holidays draw closer, the Better Business Bureau is warning people to be on the lookout for con artists who try to defraud them with their money and personal information.

The agency has compiled a ‘naughty list’ of the 12 best Christmas scams that are most likely to catch consumers and donors alike this season.

The BBB claims that while many scams on this list are facilitated by email and social media platforms, it is where most people are vulnerable.

Consumers are urged to exercise caution when encountering social media ads for discounted items, event promotions, job postings and donation requests, as well as direct messages from ‘foreigners. If you are asked to make a payment or donation by wire transfer or wire transfer, through third parties, prepaid debit card or gift card, experts say you should take this as a signal to ‘alarm.

The following 12 scams could hurt your holiday cheer:

1. Misleading social media ads: When scrolling through your social media feed, you often see items for sale from a small business. Sometimes the company even claims to support a charity to try and get you to place an order, or offers a free trial. BBB Scam Tracker receives reports of people paying for articles they never receive, billed monthly for a free trial they never signed up for, or receiving a counterfeit or significantly different item than advertised. The 2020 BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report found that online shopping scams were the most common drawbacks reported to Scam Tracker and the category with the most victims. Do your homework and research the company before ordering. Check out the company profile on and read reviews.

Learn more about deceptive ads. free trial offers and counterfeit products.

2. Exchanging gifts on social networks: Each holiday season, this program reappears, and this year is no different. A more recent version of this scam revolves around the exchange of wine bottles; another suggests buying $ 10 freebies online. Another twist asks you to submit your email to a list where attendees can pick a name and send money to strangers to ‘pay it forward’. There’s even a variation of “Secret Santa Dog” where you buy a $ 10 gift for your “secret dog”.

In all of these versions, participants unwittingly share their personal information, as well as that of their family and friends, and then are tricked into buying and shipping gifts or money to unknown people. And – it’s an illegal pyramid scheme.

Learn more about exchanging gifts on social media.

3. Vacation Apps: Apple’s App Store and Google Play list dozens of holiday-themed apps where kids can chat live with Santa, light the menorah, watch Santa feed reindeer live, follow his sleigh on Christmas Eve or relay their holiday wish lists. This holiday season, like last year when COVID-19 forced kids to skip the traditional in-person visit with Santa, apps can play a bigger role than ever. See the privacy policies to see what information will be collected. Beware of free apps, as sometimes they can contain more advertising than apps that require minimal fees. Free applications can also contain malware.

Learn more about vacation apps.

4. Alerts on compromised accounts: BBB has received reports on Scam Tracker of a scam claiming that your Amazon, Paypal, Netflix, or bank account has been compromised. Victims receive an email, call or text that explains that there has been suspicious activity on one of their accounts, and this further urges them to take immediate action to prevent the account from being lost. compromise. Be extra careful with unsolicited calls, emails and texts.

Learn more about compromised account scams.

5. Free gift cards: Nothing brings good humor like the word “FREE”. Scammers have been known to take advantage of this weakness by sending bulk phishing emails asking for personal information in order to receive free gift cards. In some of these emails, crooks pose as legitimate companies like Starbucks and promise gift cards to loyal customers who have supported their businesses throughout the pandemic. They may also use contextual advertisements or send text messages with links indicating that you have been randomly selected as a prize winner.

If you’ve received an unsolicited email with gift card offers, don’t open it. Instead, mark it as spam or junk. However, if you’ve opened the email, don’t click any links.

Learn more about gift card scams.

6. Temporary vacation jobs: Retailers typically hire seasonal workers to help meet the demands of vacation buyers. Shippers and delivery services are the top vacation employers this year due to the increase in online orders and the need to have most of these packages delivered before Christmas. These jobs are a great way to earn extra money, sometimes with the potential to turn into a long term employment opportunity. However, job seekers should beware of job scams aimed at stealing money and personal information from job seekers. Keep an eye out for opportunities that seem too good to be true.

Learn more about vacation job scams.

7. Similar websites: The holiday season brings endless emails with offers, sales and great deals. Beware of emails with links. Some can lead to similar websites created by crooks to trick people into downloading malware, making dead end purchases, and sharing private information. If you are unsure of the email, do not click any of the links. Instead, hover over them to see where they are redirecting.

Learn more about similar websites.

8. Fake charities: Typically 40% of all charitable donations are received in the last few weeks of the year. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations have had to cancel their usual fundraising events and awareness campaigns and are now inviting donors to support online. Donors are advised to seek out fraudulent charities and con artists posing as people in need. Avoid impromptu donation decisions to unknown organizations. Responsible organizations will welcome a gift tomorrow as much as they do today. Check out a charity on BBB’s or on the Canada Revenue Agency website. If possible, donate to the charity through their website and use a credit card.

Learn more about fake charities.

9. Fake shipping notifications: As more and more consumers shop online, there is also an increase in the number of notifications regarding shipping details from retailers and carriers. Crooks are using this new wave to send phishing emails containing links that could allow unwanted access to your private information or download malware onto your device. They may also try to get people to pay new shipping costs.

Learn more about delivery and parcel scams.

ten. Ephemeral holiday virtual events: This year, many local in-person events, such as pop-up holiday markets or craft fairs, have come online. Scammers create fake event pages, social media posts and emails, charging for admission for what was previously a free event. The goal is to steal credit card information. Confirm with the event organizer if there is an entrance fee. In cases where there is a charge, use a credit card. If the event is free, watch for scammers who claim otherwise.

Learn more about pop-up vacation shops.

11. Top Holiday Wish List Items: Luxury goods, jewelry, designer clothes and electronics that are cheap or ridiculously priced are almost always cheap fakes and fakes. This year, the Galactic Snackin ‘Grogu Animatronic (aka Baby Yoda) and game consoles are some of the most requested items. Be very careful when considering purchasing these high value items from individuals through social sites.

Learn more about hot toy holiday scams.

12. Puppy scams: Many families, especially those with children, might consider adding a four-legged friend to their household this year. However, you could be the victim of a pet scam, which is on the rise this year. Ask to see the animal in person before making a purchase.

For general information on how to avoid scams, visit For more tips, read BBB’s online shopping tips. If you’ve spotted a scam online, report it to BBB ScamTracker.

Read more BBB vacation tips here.

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