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The naughty list of holiday schemes

Naughty or nice? What schemes made the top of the naughty list this year so you can avoid holiday Grinches.

SAN ANTONIO — Grinches are working hard this season to ruin your holidays and new year by stealing your money as well as your personal and financial information. 

These schemes can put a damper on your holiday cheer:

#1 Misleading social media ads:  You will often find items for sale in your social media feeds. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) found online purchase schemes are the most common con with the most victims. People pay for items and never get them or get something very different from what was advertised. Research the company before you buy something from a social media add. Check business profiles at BBB.org and read the reviews.

#2 Social media gift exchanges: We all love a secret Santa, but these gift exchanges are the Grinch disguised as Old Saint Nick. This scheme could be exchanging bottles of wine or $10 gift cards. In any version, participants share their personal information and send gifts or money to an unknown person. It is not a secret Santa exchange, it is an illegal pyramid scheme.

#3 Alerts about compromised accounts You have probably gotten a text, email or call saying your there is suspicious activity on your Amazon, Paypal, Netflix, bank or other account. It tells you to take immediate action so you do not lose money. Do not take the bait. Call your provider directly if you suspect there is a problem.

#4 Fake shipping notifications: Many of us shop online and are awaiting packages. Think twice before you click on any links saying you need take an extra step to get your item. You could give someone access to your private information, download malware or be tricked into paying extra fees. Call the shipping carrier or merchant directly if there is an issue.

#5 Look-alike websites: We all like a bargain on great gifts, but be wary of links to websites that look like legitimate online stores but are really created by schemers to con you into paying for a purchase you never get, downloading malware or sharing personal information. Check that the link has H-T-T-P-S. The “s” means it is secure.

#6 Holiday Apps:  There are lots of holiday themed apps including ones where children can have a chat with Santa, light a menorah or track Santa’s sleigh. Review the privacy policy of any app before you download it to see what information it collects. Be wary of free apps because they may contain malware.

#7 Free Gift Cards: We all love getting something for free and schemers know it. Con artists are sending out emails requesting personal information in exchange for a free gift card. Often, schemers impersonate legitimate companies and promise a gift card to loyal customers. Do not open any unsolicited emails with a gift card offer. Mark is as “spam” or “junk.” Do not click on any links if you do open the email.

#8 Temporary Holiday Jobs Seasonal workers are often hired by retailers during the busy holiday shopping season. These jobs can be a good way to make extra money. Yet, job seekers need to be skeptical of employment scams that steal money or personal information. Do not pay money to get a job.

#9 Fake Charities:  The holidays often put us in the giving spirit. Yet, donors need to be aware of fraudulent charities and schemers pretending to be a person in need. Avoid unplanned donations to unfamiliar charities. If you are pressured to give, say no. Responsible organizations will welcome a gift at any time. Verify a charity at BBB’s give.org. Donate to a charity through its website and use a credit card.

#10 Pop Up Holiday Virtual Events: Many local in-person holiday events like breakfasts with Santa or craft fairs moved online this year because of the pandemic. Schemers are creating fraudulent events pages, social media posts and emails charging admission for what are often free events. Confirm with the organizer first that there is an admission fee before you buy a ticket. Use a credit card if there is a charge.

#11 Popular Holiday Gifts:  Be careful of buying low-cost luxury goods, jewelry, designer clothing or electronics. They are almost always cheap counterfeits and knockoffs. Use caution when considering purchasing these expensive items from people on social media.

#12 Puppy Scams:  Many families get a furry friend as a holiday gift. Do not buy a pet online. Request to see the animal in person before making the purchase.

Keep your money safe by always paying with a credit card. It offers the most consumer protections. Never send payment by wire transfer, gift card, peer-to- peer payment apps or prepaid debit cards. You cannot get your money back if you use those payment methods.

If you have a question for Eyewitness Wants To Know, email us at EWTK@KENS5.com or call us as 210-377-8647.

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