Every year, thousands of shoppers fall victim to the holiday deals that seem too good to be true, and the bogus charity pleas that pull at the heart strings. This holiday season, the BBB urges consumers to take the following tips into consideration before doing their holiday shopping and making charity donations:
Always check a business’s BBB Business Review, at www.bbb.org, before making a purchase in the store or online. Make sure that the company has a physical address and telephone number. When shopping online, some websites offer electronics or luxury goods at prices that are too good to be true. Every holiday season, the BBB hears from holiday shoppers who paid for a "great deal" online, but received little or nothing in return.
If you shop Craigslist or other free bulletin board sites, look for local sellers and conduct transactions in person. Bring a friend if you're uncomfortable meeting the seller alone. Never wire money as payment. If you're shopping on auctions like EBay, look at seller ratings and read their reviews. Don't buy if the deal sounds too good to be true and don’t go outside the auction’s site to complete a purchase.
Don't let yourself get bogged down in purchases or lose track of your wallet. While you're struggling with bags of presents, identity thieves may see an opportunity to steal your wallet or look over your shoulder to copy your debit or credit card numbers. Know where your credit and debit cards are at all times and cover the keypad when entering your PIN while purchasing items or getting money from an ATM. Make sure you put your card back in your wallet after each purchase.
Always research charities with the BBB before you give to see if the charity meets BBB's 20 Standards for Charity Accountability. The holidays are a time of giving, and that creates an opportunity for scammers to solicit donations to line their own pockets. Beware of solicitations from charities that don't necessarily deliver on their promises or are ill-equipped to carry through on their plans. Resist demands for on-the-spot donations. Up-to-date reports on local and national charities are available at www.give.org.
Don't click on any links or open any attachments to emails until you have confirmed that they are not malicious. Phishing emails are a common way for hackers to get at your personal information or break into your computer. Around the holidays, beware of e-cards and messages pretending to be from companies like UPS or FedEx with links to package tracking information. Email addresses that don't match up, typos and grammatical mistakes are common red flags of a malicious phishing email. Also beware of unsolicited emails from companies with which you have no association. Make sure you have current antivirus software and that all security patches have been installed on the computer.
For more holiday tips that you can trust, visit www.bbb.org.
Kelvin Collins is president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central Georgia & the CSRA, Inc. serving 41 counties in Central Georgia and the Central Savannah River Area (CSRA). This tips column is provided through the local BBB and the Council of Better Business Bureaus. Questions or complaints about a specific company or charity should be referred directly to the BBB at Phone: 1-800-763-4222, Web site: www.bbb.org or E-mail: [email protected] or [email protected]