Imagine spending months leading up to Christmas searching for the perfect puppy only discover that the little love you thought you found doesn’t even exist. Instead, you’ve sent hundreds if not thousands of dollars to a scammer — a criminal who may not even live on the same continent as you.
This kind of thing has happened at least hundreds of people over the past few years.
“The best scam is a scam that plays on your emotions and what better plays on your emotion than cute little puppies,” the Better Business Bureau’s Bryan Ogelsby said.
During the holiday season, emotions are generally running high. Time seems to move faster, money may be tight and distractions multiply.
We already told you how to secure your transactions by using a “business browser” exclusively for online shopping on top of your updated software and internet security like F-Secure TOTAL. But even if you shop smart, practice strong password password security and stick to official app stores, you can still fall victim to scams, including ones trying to “sell” you a puppy.
The Better Business Bureau has specific advice to avoid the “fake puppy” scam, including: “Don’t buy a pet without seeing it in person. Do an internet search of the picture of the pet you are considering. If the same picture appears on multiple websites, you may be dealing with a fraud. You also can search for text from ads or testimonials to see if the seller copied it from another site.” You can also just avoid ever getting scammed by a stranger promising a puppy by visiting your local animal shelter
But puppies are not the only lure you should expect to come across as Christmas approaches.
If you only can remember one thing to keep you safe during holiday shopping season, let it be: If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Think of this as the Golden Rule of Online Scams.
The FBI has also warned to consumers to be on the lookout of these schemes that are particularly potent during the holiday season because we all occasionally forget the Golden Rule:
Online Shopping Scams
*Stick to retailers you know and shop directly through their app or site.
*Don’t click on links or attachments in any spam emails, or you could end up with ransomware.
*Check any link in any email without hovering over it to preview the link to make sure you’re being sent to an official site and not a phishing scam.
Gift Card Scams
*Beware of strangers and even friends on social media offering “gift cards” in exchange for taking a survey or filling out other forms.
*Avoid buying gift cards, especially when offered randomly to you through a phone call.
*iTunes gift card scams are extremely common and Apple reminds you never to share the numbers on the back of your iTunes gift cards. And you can be certain that legitimate law enforcement will NEVER ask you to pay any fine or fee with an iTunes gift card.
*Most of us would love extra money during the holiday season and these scams prey upon that need.
*Often scammers ask for money up front in exchange for money-making opportunities in the future. This almost always signals that you are dealing with a fraud.
*Google all individuals, companies or “opportunities” before providing any with personal information.
If you’re wondering what sort of scams are being reported right now, check out the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker.