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BBB lists 2014 Holiday Schemes You’s Better Watch Out For


Better Business Bureau - BBBNashville, TN – You better watch out, we can tell you why.

Schemers and scammers are lurking about….ready to trick you with their schemes.

While Santa is making his list and checking it twice, BBB warns consumers to be on the look out for the following 2014 holiday schemes.

Gift Card Schemes – Purchasing gift cards is one of the easiest ways to show your loved ones how much you care during the holidays.  It’s also one of the easiest ways scammers can steal gift money long before you ever spend it.

Handheld scanners give con artists the tools they need to snag the information off the gift card as it hangs on the rack waiting for your purchase.

All the scammer has to do is periodically call the 800 number listed on the back of the card to verify it has been purchased and activated.

Once activated, the gift card can easily be used to make online purchases without ever having the actual card in hand.

TIP: Only buy gift cards secured behind the customer service desk, and always ask the retailer to provide a receipt showing any pre-paid cards are fully valued.

Puppy Scams – With such cute, cuddly faces, puppies make it simple for scammers to target one’s wallet during the holidays.  Shysters pray on those looking to warm their homes with love from a furry friend, and by simply creating fake websites claiming to be puppy breeders, consumers are lured in with photographs and promises of adopting a healthy puppy.

But, before the dog can be delivered, the expecting family must pay the agreed upon adoption fee (usually hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars), shipping costs, insurance, and veterinarian fees via wire transfer.  Once the money has been sent, the con artist tells the consumer their puppy is ready for pick-up at the nearest airport, but after hours of waiting, the puppy never arrives.

TIP: Always check out the breeder with BBB before making a purchase.  Visit the breeding facility, check out the breeder’s credentials with the American Kennel Club, and obtain an independent veterinarian check up to ensure the puppy is healthy BEFORE the adoption.

Gift Basket Shams – You receive a phone call from someone claiming they have a package to deliver and that it will be there within the hour. Shortly after, a deliveryman arrives with a beautiful basket of flowers and wine. Because the gift contains alcohol, he claims a nominal $3.50 “delivery charge” payable only by debit or credit card is required as proof the package was delivered to an adult.

Elated with receiving the gift, you don’t think twice about handing your card over for payment.  After swiping the card on a small mobile credit card machine and entering the card’s PIN number, a receipt is printed, and you’re off to enjoy your new gift.  However, several days later, you discover somebody has created a “dummy card” with all your card details and has made several thousands of dollars worth of unauthorized charges.

TIP: Never agree to pay for unexpected gifts.  If your credit card has been used fraudulently, report it to your credit card company immediately.  The Fair Credit Billing Act applies to credit cards, charge accounts and overdraft checking, and can be used to fight unauthorized charges if disputed within 60 days of the charge taking place.

Holiday Job Offers – Lots of people could use a little extra cash for the Christmas season, and online holiday job offers with claims of making easy cash for little work are enticing to some. In one scenario a job seeker was hired to collect payments from clients in the U.S. and in turn wire the money to a company located overseas.

The employee was instructed to keep a percentage of the money as his or her pay. The employee later found out that the collected payments were for non-existent merchandise sold through online auction sites. Auction bidders, would bid on an item and send in their payment to the seller, only to find out later that the merchandise never existed.

Tip: Never forward or transfer money from any of your personal accounts on behalf of your employer. Also, be suspicious if you are asked to “wire” money to an employer. If a legitimate job requires you to make money transfers, the money should be withdrawn from the employer’s business account, not yours.

Charity Schemes – Helping those in need is a wonderful way to give back during the holidays, especially when those in need are children.  Much like the puppy scam, con artists prey on consumer vulnerability with claims such as donations will go toward Christmas gifts, clothing, shoes, food, and more for the poor, but in one egregious charity scheme, consumers later found that their donation never went toward helping children at all.

In fact, those claiming to be the charity administrators kept the money and used it all for personal gain.

TIP: Check with BBB to ensure the charity meets BBB’s 20 Standards for Charitable Accountability.  Watch out for copycats using well-known charity names to trick you into giving a donation. Avoid being pressured. Responsible organizations will welcome your gift tomorrow just as much as today. Keep emotions in check.  Always take a moment to verify that your selected charity operates ethically.

Holiday Rentals – The holiday season is peak travel season as consumers visit family and friends. Scammers post fake rentals asking for consumers to wire money for deposits on listed properties. As you may have already guessed, the property doesn’t exist and not only is the consumer out the money of the deposit, but they have nowhere to stay.

TIP: Never wire money to anyone you don’t know. Also, do your research on the property to make sure it exists. Ask for pictures and phone numbers of recent renters. If the price is extremely low, take this as a red flag and look for somewhere else to stay.

iPad Scams  – iPads are one of the hottest ticket items this holiday season, and many name brand stores have sold a limited supply. Unfortunately this gives scammers the perfect opportunity to take advantage of consumers.  Some con artists run ads for cheaply priced iPads, or consumers are told they will receive a free iPad after purchasing additional products.

In reality, they never receive any of the items. Other consumers take a quiz to receive a free iPad and then unknowingly provide personal information that signs them up for services they never purchased.  This also leads to opportunities for the scammer to commit identity theft.

TIP: Beware of deals that sound too good to be true. Consumers should be extremely cautious of low prices on hard-to-get items and should never provide personal information to unfamiliar parties.

If you’re looking for some great holiday gifts, BBB’s Online Auction is open through December 7th. The Online Auction site features products & services valued at thousands of dollars donated by local Middle Tennessee businesses. Hundreds of items can be previewed online NOW at




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