Holiday Scams

HOLIDAY SCAMS

Watch out for online holiday scammers

Here are 4 Facebook scams to be aware of during this holiday season

1. “Secret sisters” holiday gift scam: Buy a $10 holiday gift and send it to one person. In return, you’ll get up to 36 gifts back. Who wouldn’t want to get 36 gifts, especially if they’re must-have tech gifts? This offer is courtesy of something called the “secret sisters gift exchange.” There’s a similar post going around for a book exchange for kids with the same basic premise.

It’s a classic two-deep pyramid scheme: Send a gift to the first secret sister. Move the second name to the first position. Send the instructions to six other women, and so on. Gifts come in about two weeks. And pyramid schemes are illegal and might get you fined or imprisoned. The federal government and many states also have laws against these kinds of schemes.

What to do: Anyone offering a huge return on any investment is probably trying to fool you. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. Do not even click on the link.

2. Lottery scam: If you get a message from a Facebook friend saying that they’ve won a $40,000 lottery on Facebook, watch out. A woman from Nevada received a post from someone on Facebook named Theresa Paddock telling her she won the lottery. To get her money, however, she’d have to wire $150 to cover “insurance” and other fees. She did, but didn’t get her winnings. Instead, an unknown man started trying to get more money from her.

What to do: If a friend tells you they won something and you can, too, call or email (not on Facebook) and make sure it’s really them. Don’t send money to someone with the promise of getting money or a prize back. It’s called an “Advanced fee” scam, and it never ends well.

Never wire money to anyone, whether it’s through Western Union, MoneyGram or another service. Once you wire money, it’s gone forever. Other versions of the scam target Powerball and Mega Millions players.

3. Airline ticket scam: This one claims British Airways is giving away free flights for a year. Share the photo, like the page and comment to win. It’s even coming from the “British Air” Facebook page. It’s a common scam, often using Delta. The two latest Delta scams tricked more than 85,000 people. “Virgin Airlines” and “Qantas” have also been targeted.

What to do: The airline’s real name is British Airways. “British Air” “British Airway” or some other variation on Facebook, is a fake. The real airline page will have a blue checkmark next to the name indicating it’s a verified profile. Just be sure to hover your mouse over the checkmark. It should pop up a little box that says “Verified Page.” If it doesn’t, then you’re on a fake page.

Very few companies run contests exclusively using Facebook. If a company posts about a contest, you usually need to click a link to visit a contest sign-up page on the company’s website.

4. Fake charities: Holiday season is a time when charitable organizations often collect donations from consumers looking to spread some holiday cheer. But beware of phony charities that may call or send letters in hopes of cashing in on your holiday spirit.

What to do: Research the charity before donating (trycharitynavigator.com or the Better Business Bureau). If you opt to contribute to an organization, go to its website to enter your payment information there instead of giving your money away over the phone. 

Posted on December 4, 2015 .