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BBB® Warns: 'Tis the Season for Holiday Scams


The holiday season is upon us…and so are the holiday scams. Better Business Bureau® serving Louisville, Southern Indiana and Western Kentucky is sharing the common scams of the holidays, and how you can spot them and protect yourself!


Online Shopping

‘Tis the season for holiday shopping, but more of the shopping will be online this year due to COVID. BBB is warning online shoppers to “shop safe, shop smart!”

Online purchase scams ranked among the top three riskiest scams for the last three years, according to the 2019 BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report published in March 2020, shortly after COVID-19 shut down much of the economy. BBB recommends you research the company before you buy (go to; beware of fake websites; be careful purchasing the “hot product” of the year online, that is hard to find anywhere else; make sure you are purchasing on a secure website (look for the “https” in the URL); and if a deal looks “too-good-to-be-true,” it probably is!


“Must-have” Toys

Every year, there’s always a few “must-have” toys on most kids’ holiday wish lists. The toy sells out fast, and becomes expensive and hard to find. Scammers use the toy’s popularity to trick parents out of money when they search for the toys online. The site may look professional and have original images of the product. It may even offer the product at discounted prices, claiming a "last-minute deal" or "flash sale".


Unfortunately, many such offers are fake. Buyers think they are ordering a high-quality, animatronic toy. Instead, they received a cheap counterfeit version. The best way to avoid getting scammed when purchasing toys is to buy them directly from a seller you know and trust.


Shopping Social Media Ads

BBB Scam Tracker has received thousands of complaints about misleading Facebook and Instagram ads. Some of the products that are advertised claim to support a charity. Other ads offer “Free Trials” to try the latest and greatest new skin care or nutritional supplement. Other ads tout brand name goods but are actually counterfeit merchandise. These products end up being of poor quality, if you ever actually receive the product you ordered. BBB recommends you research the business before you make a purchase. Check out the company at and do a Google search to see what people are saying about it.


Gift cards

Before you purchase a gift card for a present, be sure to examine the card first to make sure it hasn’t been tampered with. If you are buying it from a website, make sure it is a reputable site. Be wary of third-party sites that offer extreme discounts on gift cards. Scam artists may write down gift card codes and drain the card before you have a chance to use it.


Pop-up holiday markets/events

With the pandemic, many local in-person events, such as popup holiday markets or craft fairs, have moved online. Scammers are creating fake event pages, social media posts, and emails, charging for admission for what used to be a free event. The goal is to steal your credit card information. If the event is unfamiliar to you, research the host and list of vendors ahead of time.


“Secret Sister” gift exchange

The “Secret Sister” gift exchange became popular several years ago through Facebook posts, promising participants would receive up to 36 gifts, in exchange for sending one gift. Each holiday season, the scheme pops back up. A newer version of this scam revolves around exchanging bottles of wine; another suggests purchasing $10 gifts online. The scheme starts with an invitation via email or on social media to sign up. Just provide your name, address, and personal information of a few additional friends. Tack this information on to a list that’s already started of people you’ve never met on the internet. Next, it’s your turn to send an email or social media invitation to send a modest gift or bottle of wine to a stranger along with their friends, family and contacts. The cycle continues, in hopes that the favor is reciprocated. Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen. It’s a pyramid scheme. It relies on the recruitment of individuals to keep the scam afloat. Once people stop participating in the gift exchange, the gift supply stops and leaves hundreds of disappointed people without their promised gifts or cash. It is also illegal to take part in pyramid schemes in the US.


Holiday job scams

Retailers and shippers traditionally hire seasonal workers to fulfill the demands of holiday shoppers whether they are online or in person. But, some of these job offers seem “too-good-to-be-true.” BBB warns, employers will never ask for payment upfront for a job. Also, be wary of any job offer that doesn’t require an interview. If the company is offering big money for what seems to be a small job, for example, “reshipping packages,” it is likely a scam! Scammers often ask you to fill out job applications in an attempt to steal your personal information too. Don’t fall for it! Research the company offering you a job first.


Holiday Apps

Apple's App Store and Google Play list dozens of holiday-themed apps: children can video chat live with Santa, light the menorah, watch Santa feed live reindeer, track his sleigh on Christmas Eve, or relay their Christmas wish-lists. This holiday season, when COVID-19 is causing kids to skip the traditional in-person visit with Santa, apps may play a more important role than ever. Before allowing a child to download any app, be sure what data its collecting and set permission requirements. Look for the apps privacy policy before it is downloaded. Be wary of free apps, as they can sometimes contain more advertising than apps that require a nominal fee. Free apps can also contain a form of malicious code called malware.


Popular Delivery Scams

Delivery scams and theft are particularly prevalent at the holidays, when more packages are being shipped. These scams come in phishing texts or emails that pose as official notices from delivery companies. They contain a “tracking link” or a message that there is a problem with the shipment. Clicking the link either takes you to a form that asks for personally identifying information, or to a site that downloads malware onto your computer. Legitimate delivery services usually leave a “missed delivery” notice on your door. If there is any question about a delivery, go to the delivery carrier's website directly.


Fake charities

Tis the season for giving! Scammers often take advantage of people’s generosity, especially at this time of the year, by using fake charity solicitations. Always be sure to check the charity first at to be sure that the charity is real and to see how your donation is being used. A legitimate charity will take your donation today, tomorrow, or next month! Check out a charity at

For more information on holiday scams, go to


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