INDIANAPOLIS — They made a list and checked it twice, and these scams are on the Better Business Bureau’s naughty list.

The BBB released the top 12 scams of Christmas that are likely to catch consumers and donors off guard this year.

On the first day of Christmas, a scammer said to me

“You can try this for free.”

As people scroll along their social media feeds, they may see an ad like this pop up.

Sometimes you will see items for sale from what seems like a small business. In some cases, the business even claims to support charity to try to get you to order, or offer a free trial.

However, the BBB says they get reports from people paying for items that either never get, or are charged monthly for a free trial that they never signed up for. In other cases, people get an item that is counterfeit or much different from what was advertised.

What you see is not always what you get

The BBB says online purchase scams were the most common cons reported to Scam Tracker in 2022 and the category with the most victims. The organization encourages you to do your homework and research the company before ordering.

Read more about misleading ads and free trial offers.

On the second day of Christmas, a scammer said to me

“Secret Santa dog.”

It seems like every year social media gift exchange schemes pop back up, and the BBB says this year is no different.

Santa Paws does not approve of your pyramid schemes.

The BBB says a newer version of the scheme revolves around exchanging bottles of wine. Another version suggests buying $10 gifts online.

Another twist asks you to submit their email into a list where people can pick a name and send money to strangers to “pay it forward.” The BBB says there is even a twist about “Secret Santa Dog” where you buy $10 for their “secret dog.”

In all these versions, the BBB says you unwittingly share your personal information, along with those of your family and friends. You are further tricked into buying and shipping gifts or money to people you don’t know.

Oh ya, and the BBB says it’s an illegal pyramid scheme, so there’s that.

The next time you see someone promising a bounty of gifts or cash, BBB recommends the following:

  • Ignore it! Keep in mind that pyramid schemes are international. Chain letters involving money or valuable items and promising big returns are illegal. Stop and ask, is it worth breaking the law? Report it instead to Canadian agencies or to the U.S. Postal Inspection Services.  
  • Report social media posts. If you receive an invitation to join a pyramid scheme on social media, report it to Facebook by clicking in the upper right-hand corner and selecting “report post” or “report photo.”
  • Never give your personal information to strangers. This will open you up to identity theft and other scams.
  • Be wary of false claims. Some pyramid schemes try to win your confidence by claiming they’re legal and endorsed by the government. These imposter schemes are false as the government will never endorse illegal activity. No matter what they claim, pyramid schemes will not make you rich. You will receive little to no money back on your “investment” or gift exchange.

On the third day of Christmas, a scammer said to me

“There’s an app for that.”

Wide banner panoramic view of little brother and sister kids have fun play on gadgets on winter holidays at home. Small boy and girl children look at screen enjoy online game use devices together.
Grinch apps are out to steal Christmas…and your data

It seems like you can’t open the Apple App Store or Google Play this time of year without being virtually assaulted by dozens of holiday-themed apps.

The BBB says among these 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 holiday wish lists.

In the past two years, when COVID-19 caused children to skip the traditional in-person visit with Santa, apps played a more important role than ever to set the holiday mood. In 2022, there is a Santa shortage as the demand for Kris Kringle is higher than ever.

Before downloading these apps for children, the BBB urges you to be sure what data it is collecting and set permission requirements. The BBB also warns you to be wary of free apps, as they can sometimes contain more advertising than apps that require a nominal fee. Free apps can also contain malware.

Read more about holiday apps.

On the fourth day of Christmas, a scammer said to me

“Compromised account!”

Ho ho OH NO!

The last thing you want when getting ready to cuddle on the couch to watch Christmas movies is an alert saying your Netflix account has been compromised.

The BBB said it has been receiving reports on Scam Tracker about a con claiming your Amazon, PayPal, Netflix, or bank account has been compromised.

In this con, you get an email, call, or text message explaining that there has been suspicious activity on one of your accounts. The message urges you to take immediate action to prevent the account from being compromised.

The BBB urges you to be extra cautious about unsolicited calls, emails and texts.

Read more about compromised account scams.

On the fifth day of Christmas, a scammer said to me

“Free gift cards!”

Nothing brings out good cheer like the word FREE, and scammers know that

With high inflation, rising interest rates, and people facing layoffs, many people may be looking for any way possible to save a few dollars. So when you see an ad that looks like it comes from a legitimate company offering a free gift card, you may be tempted to jump on the opportunity.

Scammers know that, and that is what they are hoping for. The BBB says scammers send out bulk phishing emails requesting personal information to get free gift cards. In some cases, they may pretend to be companies like Starbucks and promise gift cards to their loyal customers who supported their business throughout the pandemic.

In other cases, the BBB says you may get a pop-up ad or text message saying you were randomly selected to win a prize.

The BBB is warning you that if you get an unsolicited email with gift card offers, do not open it. Instead, mark it as Spam or Junk. However, if you opened the email, do not click on any links.

Read more about gift card scams.

On the sixth day of Christmas, a scammer said to me

“Want some extra money?”

Make sure you aren’t applying to get scammed

While you may not fall for “free” gift cards, you may still be looking to earn a little extra spending money to buy Christmas presents. The good news is, there are plenty of seasonal job openings out there.

The BBB says shippers and delivery services are top holiday employers because the increase in online orders and the need to get these packages delivered before Christmas. They are a great way to make extra money, and even have the possibility to turn the work into a long-term employment opportunity.

However, the BBB says you need to be wary of employment scams aimed at stealing money and personal information from job applicants. The general rule of thumb is if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Read more about holiday job scams.

On the seventh day of Christmas, a scammer said to me

“Click on this site”

Old Saint Nick is not amused by your fake website.

The holiday season brings endless emails offering deals, sales, and bargains. Be wary of emails with links enclosed.

Some may lead to look-alike websites created by scammers to trick people into downloading malware, making dead-end purchases, and sharing private information.

If you are uncertain about the email, do not click any of the links. Instead, hover over them to see where they reroute.

Read more on look-alike websites.

On the eighth day of Christmas, a scammer said to me

“I am a charity”

Make sure your good will is not going to the wrong people

Christmas is a time of giving for many people. In fact, the BBB says 40% of all charitable donations are received during the last few weeks of the year.

Scammers want to get in on this feeling of good will, so they may pretend to be a charity or someone in need. They hope that people looking to spread Christmas cheer may send some of their money to them.

The BBB is warning you not to give impromptu donations to unfamiliar organizations, even if it is being promoted by your favorite social media influencer.

Make sure to verify the charity at BBB’s or on the Canada Revenue Agency website. Where possible, donate to the charity through their website and use a credit card.

On the ninth day of Christmas, a scammer said to me

“Your shipment’s coming.”

Santa Claus in a warehouse receives requests for gifts

If you are like many people, you may be buying more stuff online. You may not be surprised that you are constantly getting shipment notifications in your inbox.

However, the BBB says Scammers are using this new surge to send phishing emails with links enclosed that may allow unwanted access to your private information or download malware onto your device.

In some cases, scammers may try to trick you into paying new shipping fees.

Read more about delivery and package scams.

On the tenth day of Christmas, a scammer said to me

“Time to go shopping!”

If you think it is weird that you suddenly have to pay to get in to an online craft show, it probably is a scam.

Over the past few years, many local events that used to be in-person have moved online.

Scammers are taking advantage of this. The BBB says they are creating fake event pages, social media posts, and emails, charging admission for what used to be a free event.

The goal, the BBB says, is to steal your credit card information.

To avoid this scam, make sure you confirm with the organizer of the event if there is an admission fee. In cases where there is a charge, use a credit card. If the event is free, watch for scammers trying to claim otherwise.

Read more about pop-up holiday shops.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, a scammer said to me

“It’s not a knockoff.”

“That’s not the game system I ordered.”

Some Christmas items are ridiculously difficult to come across, think Taylor Swift concert ticket difficult.

So when you see a deal on a hot gift, you may be tempted to take it. However, low or ridiculously-priced luxury goods, jewelry, designer clothing, and electronics are almost always cheap counterfeits and knockoffs.

For example, the BBB says this year, the Galactic Snackin’ Grogu Animatronic (aka Baby Yoda) and game consoles are some of the items in high demand.

You should be very cautious when considering buying these high-value items from individuals through social sites. 

Read more about holiday hot toy scams.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, a scammer said to me

“Buy a puppy dog”

So cute, so fake

You may be considering adding a furry family member to your household this year. After all, what is cuter than seeing your child’s face light up when they see a new puppy under the tree?

However, the BBB says you could fall victim to pet scams, which are on the rise this year.

If you are considering buying a pet, request to see it in person before making a purchase. Or even better, consider adopting this year. Animal shelters would be forever grateful.

Read more on pet scams

If you’ve spotted an online scam, report it to BBB ScamTracker.