Business

Saturday, Dec 22 2012 12:00 PM

Action Line: Don't let holiday scams steal your cheer -- or worse

BY JOEY FERNANDEZ Contributing columnist

Editor's note: Action Line is a weekly column from the Better Business Bureau answering consumers' questions and concerns about money and business issues.

Dear Action Line:

I've been following your tips for the past few weeks and I appreciate your advice regarding seasonal scams. However, I'd like to further protect myself during the holiday season. I'm not quite done with my list and I have some last-minute online shopping to do. I do a lot of online shopping. Are there any other scams or tips I should be aware of?

Dear Reader:

I'm so glad that my tips have been helpful. I always say, while the holiday season can bring out the best in people, it can also bring out those pesky Grinches looking to taking advantage of our festive spirit. Oftentimes when shopping online at home we feel safe knowing that our wifi is protected and there are no spying eyes looking over our shoulders. But there are other pitfalls that can make you a victim. The Better Business Bureau serving Central California is warning of the following five most common holiday scams that could ruin your holiday cheer if you're not careful:

1. Holiday e-card scam: You receive an eGreeting from an unnamed "relative," or "friend," and you have to click on a link to view it. However, clicking on the link could unleash malicious spyware or viruses. In some cases, nothing bad happens until you download software from the e-card website so you can "run your e-card." Tip: If there is any question of who the card came from, don't open it! Also, be sure you have the latest anti-virus and anti-spyware software installed on your computer.

2. Delivery scams: In this case, you receive a card saying an unsuccessful attempt was made to deliver a package to your home and directs you to call for more details. When you call the number, you get a recorded message or are kept on hold. In the end, the number you've called is a foreign number and you are charged high rates for the call. This scam can also come via email. Tip: Find the contact information on your own for the company that left the message, and reach out to them directly to confirm any problems with a delivery.

3. Fraudulent websites: Be on the lookout for fake websites offering bargain prices, especially on hard-to-find gifts, the hot gifts for 2012 or knock-off brand name products. If the price sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Tip: Check a seller's reputation and record for customer satisfaction at bbb.org; look for the "s" in https:// in the address box to ensure you're shopping on a secure website; and pay with a credit card.

4. Phishing emails: You receive an email with a very tempting offer or claiming problems with an order, and are directed to click on a link. The link directs you to a fake website where you're told to enter personal and financial information. Tip: If you receive an email similar to this, call the contact number on the website where you placed your order to confirm that there really is a problem with the transaction. Do not click on any links provided in an email from an unknown sender

5. Fake job scam: Many retailers and manufacturers need extra staff to handle the holiday rush. Knowing this, scam artists send out emails or post to popular classified sites promising non-existent jobs. You'll eventually be asked to pay a fee for the job, or the scammer will use the info on your resume to steal your identity. Tip: Be suspicious of "too good to be true" job offers and research the company offering the job at bbb.org. Never pay money for a job and be cautious of giving your personal information.

Although these scams are common during the holiday season, they are not limited to the holiday months. These are tips you should be aware of all year long. Be an informed and cautious consumer!

-- Joey Fernandez is assistant director of business services for the Better Business Bureau serving Central California. Send your consumer concerns, questions and problems to Action Line at the Better Business Bureau, 1601 H St., Suite 101, Bakersfield, CA 93301 or joey@cencal.bbb.org. These are her opinions, not necessarily those of The Californian.

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