How to avoid common holiday scams

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Business is booming for retailers as shoppers get into the giving season, but it’s also open season for con artists.

We’re all trying to spend less on our holiday gifts, and our eagerness to save a buck is at the root of many of these scams, like fake coupons. Any good bargain shopper knows that coupons and coupon codes may be needed to get the best prices. Savvy shoppers should also know never to pay for one of those coupons or codes. Selling a coupon is against most manufacturers’ terms of use.

Cheap luxury goods lure in a lot of people. A $50 Rolex watch should set off alarms in your head. Some cons set up bogus websites for popular holiday gifts like these watches. The items come up in search results. They either take your money and run, or take your money and send you a cheap knockoff not worth the money you spent.

Other thieves can’t be bothered to set up their own website, so they use eBay or Craigslist instead. It’s a different venue, but you’ll find the same racket as the phony websites. Either they’ll never send you the item or send you a cheap piece of junk.

If you buy on Craigslist, never have the seller ship the item. Always meet in person, in a public place and take along a friend for good measure.

Now we come to the big guns. These are the scam artists who are taking it to a whole new level by copying the websites of popular brands. Although these sites look impressive, there’s typically something off about them – usually typos or grammar that sounds like a British nanny wrote the web copy – something like: “Kindly enter your credit card information.” Who talks like that?

If you aren’t sure about a website’s legitimacy, call the toll-free number listed.

When it comes to scams involving packages, there are two common types. With the package delivery scams, you get an email stating a package is on its way. All you need to do is click a link, fill in all your personal information and we’ll arrange for its delivery – except there’s no package and the website is simply collecting your personal data.

A variation of this scam involves a “missed package” note left on your door. You’re supposed to call a number to make arrangements for its delivery, but again, there’s no package and they’re fishing for information

Finally, scammers often target seniors at this of the year with this oldie, but goodie: the “Grandma, I’m in trouble” spiel. Grandma gets a call at night from her granddaughter or grandson who has – take your pick – been in a car accident, been robbed or needs some cash for Christmas presents. Grandma might be slightly confused by the calling grandchild’s call, but she of course wants to help, so she agrees to wire money or hands over her credit card number.

Be smart this holiday season.

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