Watch out for these favorite holiday tricks scammers use to take your money or obtain sensitive, personal information.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has issued a warning to watch for red flags of the “12 scams of Christmas,” the bureau’s compiled list of the most common holiday scams.

“When shopping or donating this holiday season, watch out for schemes trying to swipe your cash or steal your personal information,” warns the BBB.

Plenty of people get duped by social media holiday scams, fake charities, emails with phony shipping notifications and other scams each holiday season. Whether the scammer is after your money or your personal information for identity theft purposes, getting wrapped up in a holiday scam is no way to spend the most wonderful time of the year.

Scams abound this holiday season

Want to make sure you don’t get scammed by a criminal taking advantage of your holiday cheer? Here’s a rundown of nine of the BBB’s top holiday scams to avoid.

1. Fake or misleading social media ads

Always research ads on Facebook and other social media platforms before pulling out your credit card to order, advises the BBB. For example, type the product and business name in a search engine and look for other consumers’ experiences in the results.

“BBB Scam Tracker receives daily reports of people paying for items that they never receive, getting charged monthly for a free trial they never signed up for or receiving an item that is counterfeit or much different from the one advertised,” says the BBB, which recommends checking out the ad poster’s business profile on the BBB site first.

Find out: 5 Social Media Ads That Could Be Scams

2. Social media gift exchanges

A social media gift exchange of bottles of wine, $10 gifts or buying a gift for a stranger to “pay it forward” may sound like fun, but these gift exchanges pop up as scams every holiday season.

“In all of these versions, participants unwittingly share their personal information, along with those of their family members and friends, and are further tricked into buying and shipping gifts or money to unknown individuals. And it’s an illegal pyramid scheme,” says the BBB.

3. Holiday-theme apps

Before you download and install that festive holiday app, review the company’s privacy policy to make sure your personal information won’t be sold to third parties. Watch out especially for free apps, which may contain malware that installs onto your phone.

Find out: Don’t Get Burned by These 4 Vacation Scams

4. Fake alerts about compromised accounts

The BBB has received reports on the organization’s Scam Tracker about people receiving an email, call or text message about their bank, Amazon, PayPal or Netflix accounts being compromised and asking them to take immediate action. If you receive such emails, call the bank or company directly to find out if the message is legitimate.

Find out: Don’t Get Tricked By These 4 Common QR Code Scams

5. “Free” gift cards

During the holidays, scammers send out bulk “phishing” emails and texts with links saying you’ve won a prize or free gift cards. Never click on these links. Instead, delete the message or mark it as spam or junk.

Read more Gift Card Tips: Get More Out of Giving Them

6. Holiday season job scams

While retailers and other businesses often hire extra help over the holidays, not every temporary holiday job posted is legitimate. “Job seekers need to be wary of employment scams aimed at stealing money and personal information from job applicants,” advises the BBB. “Keep an eye out for opportunities that seem too good to be true.”

7. Look-alike websites

The BBB warns that scammers often send emails containing links to “look-alike” sites for well-known retailers to trick consumers into providing their credit card number and other personal information that can be used for identity theft purposes. Never click on an unsolicited email message link. Hover over it instead to see it reroutes, says the BBB.

8. Fake charities

Scammers love to pose as fake charities looking to help others in need during the holiday season. Watch out for emails that could be from fraudulent charities asking for donations. Donate to charities you’re familiar with, and check out all charities at BBB’s

9. Phony shipping notifications

During the holiday rush, it’s easy to lose track of which packages are on the way. Scammers count on the holiday shopping surge, sending fake shipping notification emails with links that download malware onto your phone or computer.

Don’t click on links in unsolicited emails. Instead, visit the site where you ordered merchandise to keep track of your online order.

Read more Don’t Get Ripped Off by These Package Delivery Scams

Avoid holiday scams

Here are three tips from the BBB for avoiding holiday scams this holiday season.

1. Stick with reputable sellers

If you find a fantastic deal on that hard-to-find toy offered by a store or website you’ve never heard of, beware. If every other retailer is sold out or has the product on backorder for 2022, the chances that the unfamiliar site could be running a toy scam are high.

“The best way to avoid getting scammed when purchasing toys is to buy them directly from a seller you know and trust,” says the BBB.

Find out: New Consumer Alert Shows Online Shopping Scams on the Rise

2. Don’t be tricked by low prices

One of the biggest red flags that an ad or a site selling a toy that’s impossible to find anywhere else is a price that’s significantly lower than the usual retail price. Never make a purchase from an unfamiliar retailer just because the price is low, warns the BBB. If the price sounds too good to be true, it’s probably a scam.

3. Do your research before buying

There may still be some good deals on must-have toys out there, but if you find one, make sure you do some research before making the purchase. Look up the company and the website with an online search, typing “scam,” “reviews” and “complaints’” in your search terms.

You may find that plenty of other customers report never receiving the toy they ordered or receiving a shoddy knockoff that looked nothing like the product advertised. Before ordering, make sure the company has a working customer service number. Also, make sure the website URL begins with “https” and contains a lock icon, which means the site payment process is secure.

“If a company seems legitimate but you aren’t familiar with it, be extra careful with your personal information,” says the BBB.

Caution is key this holiday season when shopping for hard-to-find toys. So, always make sure you do your research before buying toys online and remember, if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

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About the Author

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp is a full-time freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo. Deb went from being unable to get approved for a credit card or loan 20 years ago to having excellent credit today and becoming a homeowner. Deb learned her lessons about money the hard way. Now she wants to share them to help you pay down debt, fix your credit and quit being broke all the time. Deb's personal finance and credit articles have been published at Credit Karma and The Huffington Post.

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