BBB tips to prevent scammers from ruining your holiday season

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ST. LOUIS – “Around the holidays, we really need to be mindful about what can happen to us as consumers,” Sarah Wetzel, Better Business Bureau St. Louis, said.

Wetzel has some things to keep in mind if you’re doing your holiday shopping online.

“You want to make sure the seller is legitimate,” she said. “You want to make sure you’re taking the steps and that you’re researching that seller, especially if it’s on social media.”

Red flags include accounts without profile pictures and newer profiles potentially created with the intent to scam consumers. If your seller asks you to pay with digital platforms like Zelle, CashApp, or Venmo, Wetzel says beware.

“The reason they want you to do this is because it’s not traceable. It’s essentially like giving them a wad of cash, and they can just run away with it,” she said. “The likelihood of you getting that back is not good.”

Wetzel recommends using more secure payment methods, like credit cards. Wetzel says scammers are using phony websites and hitting shoppers with discreet shipping fees.

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“We’ve had local consumers tell us that they purchased something. They were then contacted and told they needed to pay this discreet shipping fee. They wanted to cancel their item—cancel the whole transaction—and they weren’t able to. It was a sign to us the whole thing was probably a scam,” Wetzel said.

Then there’s the standard phishing attack, where the scammer poses as a shipping company and tries to get you to click on a link via email or text message.

“That link could download malware to your computer. That link may also send you to a site that’s requesting more personal or financial information,” Wetzel said. “We really have to be careful about what we’re clicking on, especially this holiday season where they’re trying to bait you in with all kinds of things.”

Wetzel warns that if you come across a deal for a hard-to-find item at a price that seems too good to be true, chances are it is.

“Luxury items. Electronics. Sometimes even puppies. We have scammers posting them online. A lot of times at low rates,” Wetzel said.


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