(Illinois News Network
) — The fast-paced shopping season that accompanies the holidays means more potential opportunities for criminals.
That’s according to the Better Business Bureau, which is warning Illinois residents about the annual spike in scam attempts this time of the year.
“I’ve been doing this for 30 years and there always seems to be an uptick, because it appears that many people are desperate this time of the year,” said Steve Bernas, president and CEO of Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “Unfortunately, when desperation sets in, the scam artists come out of the woodwork.”
Bernas says online shoppers can be particularly vulnerable. He warns of what are called “look-alike websites” meant to trick consumers into entering private information or give scammers an opportunity to download malware onto their personal computers.
“In essence, it’s just a fake website saying they have great items at low prices,” Bernas said. “Then you realize you’ve given away your credit card information and they have nothing to deliver.”
The Better Business Bureau recommends dealing with reputable sites directly. Bernas says you should type in the URL directly into your browser instead of following links coming through emails or on social media sites.
Bernas says online shoppers also should be on the lookout for fake shipping notifications.
“You may receive an email that looks like it’s from FedEx, when it’s not,” Bernas said. “It will ask you put in your shipping info and personal info. It works, and the reason I know it works is because they continue to use it every year.”
These delivery notifications actually are phishing scams, often using a legitimate business’ name and logo to trick consumers into opening the email.
Another scam increasing in popularity is what’s known as the social media gift exchange.
“Anybody that promises if you buy one gift and you’ll receive several in return, that’s a typical pyramid scheme,” Bernas said. “It’s against postal regulations and it’s illegal. Don’t fall for those types of offers, especially when someone promises you something extraordinary.”
The Better Business Bureau asks the public to report all potential scams to bbb.org
“First thing is always contact the BBB if you have a problem, because we can handle the complaint for you and try to get a resolution to it,” Bernas said. “We also suggest using your credit card for all types of purchases, whether it be offline or online. You have more protection than you do with cash or a debit card.”
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