Don’t Fall Prey to a Holiday Toy Scam

He’s making his list and checking it twice. Unfortunately, though, the scammers making the list aren’t being so nice.

Scammers famously exploit high-stress times, and the pre-holiday shopping frenzy is no exception. That’s why the BBB is warning of an uptick in holiday toy scams which can be difficult to spot.

Here’s what you need to know about these scams.

How the scam plays out

Every year, there are a few must-have toys that make it onto most kids’ wish lists (this year’s most popular toys include a realistic toy dog and an animatronic baby Yoda). These choice picks become the hottest-selling items online and in stores, getting plucked off shelves in a wink. Unfortunately, for anyone who didn’t shop early enough, these toys soon become more difficult to find than toilet paper at the height of the COVID shutdown. The parents search desperately, ready to pay almost any price to make their child’s wish come true, to no avail.

Here’s where the scammer steps in. Armed with a bogus website and some crafty online tracking, the scammer targets the vulnerable shopper with ads and online messages to draw them to the scammers site. On the authentic-looking site, the shopper finally finds what they were looking for — the sought-after toy! Often, the toy is even deeply discounted. The purchase is completed within minutes, but sadly, the shopper’s child will not be unwrapping the much-desired toy on Christmas.

Instead, the scammer will send a cheap knockoff that doesn’t work or quickly breaks. When contacted for a refund, the scammer will either be AWOL, refuse to provide a refund or only offer to refund a small percentage of the purchase price. Sometimes, they’ll also charge an exorbitant amount of money for shipping the toy back to the company, almost making the small refund not worthwhile.

As one shopper told the BBB, she believed she’d ordered a high-quality animatronic puppy that would move and act like a real little dog.

“I wanted to get it for one of my great granddaughters,” she said. “When I received the dog in the mail, it was a small stuffed animal that you could get out of a machine at an arcade.”

Another customer paid $59.99 for a Baby Yoda toy that turned out to be nothing like it was advertised.

“It was supposed to be animated and make sounds,” the customer reports. “When I finally got it, it [was] an ugly plastic hand puppet.”

After contacting the seller for a refund, the customer was instructed to send the toy back and pay for shipping to the tune of $20 — all for a $10 refund.

Red flags

Don’t be the next victim of a holiday toy scam!

Here’s how to spot these scams:

  • The seller has a large supply of toys that are in extremely high demand.
  • The website is not secure.
  • The seller is offering a steep discount due to a “flash sale” or “last-minute” deal.
  • The seller’s website is full of spelling and/or grammatical errors.

Stay safe

Keep yourself safe when shopping online by following these tips:

  • Research before you buy. Don’t purchase an expensive item from a company you’ve never heard of before without doing some digging. Feed the company name to Google and see what the search engine has to say about it. Look up the business on the BBB website. You can also try calling the customer-service number on the website to verify the legitimacy of the company.
  • Only visit secure sites. Always look for the lock icon and the “s” after the “http” on the URL of a site to check if it’s secure.
  • Pay with credit. Paying for a purchase with a credit card will offer the buyer purchase protection and an easier time backing out of the transaction if it doesn’t turn out as expected.
  • Update your security software. For the best protection against scams, your computer should be using the most updated version of its security software
    If you believe you’ve been targeted by a holiday toy scam, end all contact with the seller immediately. Alert the BBB and let your friends know about the circulating scam as well.

Shop safely this holiday season!

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a holiday toy scam? Tell us about it in the comments.

Learn More:
scamicide.com
wkrg.com
bbb.org
lpheralddispatch.com

Beware the Pending Package Scam

Everyone loves a surprise package, and scammers are taking the excitement out of that experience by using bogus packages as a cover for a nefarious scam that tricks victims into sharing their personal information — and their money.

Here’s all you need to know about the pending package text scam:

How the scam plays out

In the circulating package delivery scam, the victim receives a text message from a contact who is an alleged mail carrier, or someone representing a package-delivery service. The contact tells the victim they were unable to deliver a package to the victim’s home. The message might claim the package is a gift from a friend or relative and may be worded professionally, making the scam difficult to spot.

The victim is asked to reply to the message to confirm their identity; however, as soon as they engage with the scammer, they will be asked to share their personal information or credit card details to schedule delivery. This, of course, places the victim at risk for identity theft.

In other variations of the scam, the victim is contacted by email or phone. In each scenario, the scam plays out in a similar manner, with the victim convinced there’s a package waiting for them, and willingly sharing sensitive data with a criminal.

Some scammers take the ruse a step further by sending the victim a text message or an email containing an embedded link. The victim is instructed to click on the “tracking link” to track the package or change their delivery preferences. Unfortunately, clicking on the link will download malware into the victim’s device. Alternatively, the link connects the victim to a form asking for their personal information, which the victim often shares willingly.

Red flags

There are two primary red flags that can serve to warn you about the pending package scam.

First, the original text, email or phone call, will generally not inform the victim of the identity of the company they represent. The scammer will only claim to be an employee of a mail or package delivery service, but will not verify if they work for UPS, FedEx or another legitimate organization.

Second, the scammers don’t always check if the victim actually has a package in transit. They’ll either assume the victim has recently ordered something online or they’ll claim a friend or family has sent a surprise gift. If you know that neither of these is true, you can be on the alert for a possible scam.

Don’t get scammed!

Take these precautions to avoid being the next victim of a pending package scam:

  • Be wary of unsolicited communications. Your mail carrier and package-delivery services will never contact you via text message or phone call. If a package cannot be delivered for any reason, they will usually leave you a note on the door.
  • Be wary of “professional” emails sent from unsecure addresses. Any online communications from the USPS or a mail delivery agency will be sent via their own secure domain. Always be suspicious of emails sent from unsecure addresses.
  • Track all incoming packages. After placing an order for an item, record the tracking number for the package so you can easily verify its whereabouts. This way, you can quickly confirm the authenticity of any suspicious texts, emails or phone calls about your package.
  • Never share personal information with an unverified contact. Be super-wary when asked to share sensitive information via text, or when online or on a phone call. If you suspect fraud, end the conversation immediately and do not engage further.
  • Never click on links in unsolicited emails. Links in emails can download malware onto your computer or device. Don’t click links in emails from people you don’t know or from companies you have not asked to contact you. Be wary of official-looking email; popular brands can easily be spoofed.

 If you’ve been targeted

If you believe you’ve been targeted by a pending package scam, it’s important not to engage with the scammer. Delete any suspicious text messages and block the number of the contact. Similarly, delete suspicious emails and mark them as spam. You can also report the scam to the local authorities and to the Federal Trade Commission. Finally, it’s a good idea to  warn your friends and family members about the circulating scam.

Your Turn: How do you determine if you’ve been targeted by a pending package scam? Tell us about it in the comments.

7 Naughty Scams To Watch Out For This Holiday Season

Male hacker wearing a santa hat sitting at a desk with multiple active computer screens.‘Tis the season to be jolly! And unfortunately, ‘tis also the season for scammers to go after your hard-earned dollars. Keep your money safe by reading up on the most common scams taking place this time of year and practicing caution.

1. Phishing emails
Always popular, phishing scams get even more prevalent before the holidays. They can take the form of bogus delivery confirmation requests seeking your information or even a personalized letter to your child from “Santa.”

Be extra careful this holiday season when it comes to sharing personal information online or with an unverified requester.

2. Fake charities
Sadly, many scammers will capitalize on the goodwill that flourishes this time of year by asking you to make a donation to a charity that does not actually exist. Verify the authenticity of any charity you’d like to make a contribution to by checking it out on a website like CharityNavigator.org. Also, it’s best to contact a charity on your own instead of following a website or email link.

3. Package theft
It’s holiday time, and those UPS and FedEx trucks are everywhere, dropping off boxes of goodies all over the neighborhood.

Usually, these drop-offs go as planned. Unfortunately, though, some 23 million customers will have their packages stolen from their doorsteps this year.

Don’t be one of them! If possible, and especially when ordering something expensive, arrange for a delivery that requires your signature upon receipt. Otherwise, track your order and know when to look out for it so you can bring it inside as quickly as possible after it’s dropped off.

When sending a gift to someone else via Amazon, consider sending it to an Amazon Locker location instead of to the recipient’s household. There’s no fee for using this service, and this way, your gift is safe.

4. Bogus sites
You might get lucky and find that perfect gift at a super-low price, but don’t believe any ads or websites that are practically giving away the good stuff for free. These are, quite likely, scams. Once you click an ad link and place an order, you’ll never hear from the site again. Worse yet, they may use the information you shared to empty your accounts.

Only shop on reputable sites. Remember to check the website address/URL before placing an order. It may look strikingly similar to a popular site, but if one letter is off or missing completely, the site is bogus and you need to get out. Also, always look for that important “s” after the “http” in the web address to verify a site’s security.

5. Fake freebies
Did you really just see a Facebook post offering you a new iPhone, completely free of charge? If you have, run the other way and don’t look back! You’re looking at a scam, designed to lure you into sharing your information with criminals or unwittingly installing malware on your device.

Fake freebies run the gamut from new phones, complementary cruises and various luxury gift items to free holiday-themed downloads, like music, wallpaper and games.

If you’re offered any outrageous free gifts by text message, email or social media posts, ignore them. Downloads, though, may be safe, but need to be carefully vetted for authenticity before you accept them.

6. Defunct gift cards
Many scammers sell expired or empty gift cards this time of year, hoping to make a profit on a card that isn’t worth more than the plastic used to make it.

Ask to inspect any gift card you purchase before you finalize the sale. Check to see if the activation code is exposed. If it is, the scammer has probably already used the card or has copied the information and will use it soon.

7. Temporary holiday jobs
Lots of businesses are hiring extra hands to get them through the busy holiday season. Don’t get stuck working for criminals!

Many scammers will pose as employees of recognized businesses and post help-wanted ads on social media platforms and popular websites. When a job seeker follows the links in these ads, they are directed to a bogus site that looks just like the site of the company the scammer claims to represent. They’ll be asked to share personal information to submit an application. The scammer will then make off with this information and the promised job will never materialize.

If you’re looking for a seasonal job, apply in-person or directly on a business’s website. Do not follow any links.

As always, be aware and be cautious when enjoying the holiday season. Don’t get grinched! Stay alert and use caution to keep your money – and your information – safe.

Your Turn:
Have you been targeted by these or any other seasonal scams? Tell us all about it in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2017/holiday-season-scams-photo.html

https://www.moneytips.com/9-scams-to-watch-out-for-this-holiday-season

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0074-giving-charity#Signs