Social media and email vacation scams: what to know, how to avoid

Over 46,000 scams were reported on the Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker last year, an increase of 24.9% from the previous year.

The median reported loss was $ 155 – but Americans collectively lost millions.

The two most common scams, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, are nondelivery scams, where buyers never receive their items, or non-payment offenses, when the goods are shipped but the seller does not. is never paid.

Non-payment or non-delivery scams have cost people over $ 265 million in the United States. Credit card fraud accounted for an additional $ 129 million in losses, according to the 2020 Internet Crime Complaint Center report.

BBB Scam Tracker receives reports of people paying for items they never receive, billed monthly for a free trial they never signed up for, or receiving a counterfeit or significantly different item than advertised.

According to the report, 38.3% of all scam reports in 2020 were online shopping, putting 18 to 54 year olds most at risk, with those 55 and over lagging behind.

And with Christmas just around the corner, the FBI is urging buyers to be wary: know who you’re buying or selling to – and be careful how you pay and monitor the shipping process.

Remember: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Here’s what you need to know about scams that are often used during the holiday season and how to avoid them, according to the BBB:

Free gift card scams

Gift card fraud can cause a seller to ask you to pay with a prepaid card or a link to a free card. If you receive an unsolicited email containing gift card offers, do not open it. Instead, mark it as spam or junk. If you open the email, don’t click any links.

Social media scams

Beware of social media ads regarding discounted items, event promotions, job opportunities, and donation requests because according to the BBB many scams are facilitated by emails and social media platforms.

When you scroll through your social media feed, you often see items for sale from small businesses. Sometimes the company even claims to support a charity or offer a free trial. Do yourself and research before ordering from a company.

Temporary employment scams

Retailers typically hire seasonal workers to help meet the demands of vacation buyers. However, job seekers should beware of job scams. BBB reports that some solicitations are aimed at stealing money and personal information during the application process.

Again, do your research. You can read business reviews on the BBB website.

Fake charity scams

Typically, 40% of all charitable donations are received in the last few weeks of the year. But now that many fundraising events have taken place online to curb the spread of COVID-19, donors need to watch out for fraudulent charities and con artists posing as people in need.

Be sure to research and review the charity you wish to donate to before donating money.

Fake shipping notifications

Crooks use the wave of online shopping to send emails with links that may allow unwanted access to your private information or download malware to your device. They can also cause people to pay new shipping costs.

Avoid clicking on these emails. You can also redirect them to your spam folder.

Puppy scams

Many families may consider adding a furry friend to their household. But before you do, ask to see the animal in person before making a purchase.

Auction fraud

The FBI warns buyers to be aware of auction fraud when a product is misrepresented on an auction site.

If you have been scammed

  • Call your credit card company or bank and dispute any suspicious charges.
  • Contact local law enforcement.
  • Report the scam to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaints Center.

For more tips on how to avoid scams while on vacation, visit the official BBB website.

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Brianna Taylor is a reporter with the Sacramento Bee Public Services Office. A former Bee intern, Brianna has also reported in Missouri and Maryland. She graduated from Morgan State University.

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