(WSPA) – The holiday season may be whizzing by, but there has been plenty of time for scammers to steal a Grinch-load of cash from unsuspecting shoppers this year.
We checked in with the experts on which scams have been most rampant, in this 7NEWS Consumer Exclusive: top seven holiday scams
Number seven: Hot toy scams
Parents desperate to find the season’s coveted gifts look for the lowest price online, and then, said Kim Ebel with the Better Business Bureau, they are lured to bogus retail sites.
“I can’t tell you how many phone calls we get from parents that are distraught because they spent money on websites. And unfortunately, it’s scammers. And after the holiday the websites are gone, and their money is gone,” Ebel said.
To avoid this scam use resources like ResellerRatings.com that tell you if the retailer is legitimate.
Number six: Vacation rental scams
Searching for that perfect holiday getaway can leave you out of pocket if the listing is bogus.
Consumer expert Steve Weisman, the founder of Scamicide.com, has the key to protection.
“You get the name of a person that is supposedly the owner of the property, and then you go online to the tax assessor’s office for that city or town, look them up and if that name doesn’t match, you’ve got a problem,” Weisman said.
Number five: Gift card scams
WalletHub finds that gift cards continue to be the most popular holiday gift for the 16th year in a row.
As 7NEWS viewers have told us, scammers can tamper with those cards in the stores.
Once you activate them, they could drain the balance.
Make sure you check for any signs of tearing or scratches on the packaging.
Number four: Charity scams
7NEWS has received reports of callers claiming to be with local firefighters or police fundraising groups.
Some even have names similar to real organizations.
Even some legitimate groups make misleading claims that they represent your local department when they don’t.
Always verify using resources, like Charity Navigator, to make sure your donation does not end up in the pockets of scammers.
Number three: Deliver scams
It’s not just porch pirates.
Watch out for deceptive delivery texts and emails that claim you have a package on the way. Or there are issues with your delivery and all you have to do is click and answer some questions, or pay an extra fee.
Nathan Patrick didn’t fall victim, but he had to fight the impulse to click.
“First reaction, I’m trying to think, have I ordered anything from FEDEX, should I be looking out for anything, that was my first reaction,” he said.
Paulette Megee explains what happens if you do fall victim after an email she thought was for a product she ordered from China asked her to pay a customs fee.
“I got a notice from my bank that they had noticed unusual activity, and I called them and explained. They said we can’t help you… they’ve already taken the money,” Megee said.
Number two: E-skimmers
There are physical skimmers that capture card numbers from things like gas station pumps, but now hackers have created malware that does the same on the checkout page of unsuspecting retailers.
“They don’t even know that they’ve been hacked until well after the fact,” Weisman said.
He said you can protect yourself by shopping online only with credit cards since they offer more fraud protection than debit cards.
Number one: Social media sponsored ad scam
Cindy Casten said this season she was lured by a “sponsored ad” on Facebook for discount Christmas trees.
“It looked like a really good deal, probably too good. Purchased it, you only could buy it, if you didn’t buy it through PayPal then you had to use your debit card. But you never got the product,” Casten said.
BBB President Vee Daniel said bogus social media sellers are the most rampant type of online scam this year.
She said she found similar ploys with ads for personalized blankets. When she looked up the companies, one had an “F” rating with the BBB, and all three she found were created within weeks of the holiday season, and she feared would be gone soon after.
“Beware. They are cute little blankets but just because they are on social media and they are a sponsored add, doesn’t mean they’re not a scam,” Daniel said.
Daniel said to use online tools like WhoIs.com and The WayBack Machine to see how long a website has been in existence. A big clue on whether the retailer will stick around past the holidays and honor any returns.