SAN FRANCISCO, CA — Holiday shoppers in San Francisco and across America are gearing up for another busy winter season; but before jumping on Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, it’s important to be aware of common scams that resurface at this time of year.
Scammers have been busy all year, taking advantage of Americans’ extra vulnerability due to the coronavirus pandemic. And Black Friday and the holiday season have long been peak times for those looking to take advantage of others.
The Better Business Bureau has offered a number of tips for shoppers to avoid becoming scam victims.
Beware of false advertising and phony websites:
If you stumble on a site offering the hottest item of the year at a price that seems too good to be true, it most likely is. Watch out for false advertisements and websites that offer prices on items way below the market average.
Always make sure websites use the correct spelling of business names and offer contact information, along with customer service numbers. Misspellings and incorrect information can be tipoffs that the website belongs to a scammer.
Shop with trustworthy stores:
A red flag should go up immediately if you find yourself shopping with a business you’ve never heard of. You can check all businesses with the Better Business Bureau’s rating tool.
Keep your antivirus software up to date:
Technology is your friend in the fight against scammers. Make sure you have antivirus software installed on your computer or mobile device, and that it’s up to date.
Use your credit card, not your debit card:
It’s almost always best to make online purchases with your credit card. If a charge appears that seems incorrect, you can contest the purchase through your credit card company. Debit cards don’t offer the same safety net.
Watch out for phishing scams:
Stay alert for unsolicited emails, texts, calls or letters claiming that you have a free gift waiting or that there is a problem with delivery. The best way to avoid this scammer strategy is to simply steer clear of suspicious email addresses and unfamiliar phone numbers.
Don’t respond to texts from unknown numbers:
Replying “unsubscribe” or “stop” lets the scammer know that there is a person using your telephone number. Then, they can try to obtain your personal information, hack your phone or scam you out of money.
Be alert to phony classified ad listings:
If you are conducting a transaction in person, always meet in a public place to make the exchange, and test any electronic devices before paying. If a seller has posted an item on a local classified site but says it needs to be shipped, that’s an automatic red flag.
For more advice on avoiding scammers during the holiday season, visit the Better Business Bureau for a more in depth guide.
— Written by Patch editor Tim Moran