Consumer Alert: ‘Tis the 12 Scams of Christmas. Here’s what to look out for this holiday season. | #ukscams | #datingscams | #european

Number one on the list: Swindling Social Media ads. Online purchase scams were the number one money grabs reported to the BBB’S scam tracker last year.

You see what looks like a legitimate ad for a small business on Facebook or Instagram. And often clicking on that ad takes you to a Shopify store with the promise of a great product at an awesome price.

But instead, you end up paying a monthly fee for a subscription service you didn’t know you bought or you pay for a product you never get. A recent study by Fakespot revealed that 21% of the 124,000 Shopify stores it examined were likely fake. And Facebook is doing no better at patrolling the ads. A consumer watchdog study this spring found that Facebook failed to remove 26% of fake ads users reported to them.

Social media gift exchanges are on the BBB’s naughty list as well. I didn’t have to look far to find an example. One of the memories on my Facebook from Nov. 17, 2020, featured one of those gift exchanges. Someone tagged me as well as 98 of our closest friends. It says “I am looking for ladies interested in a gift exchange. You have to buy one gift valued at at least $15 and send it to your secret sis. You will then receive gifts in return.”

Seems harmless right? Wrong. There are lots of versions of this scam but in all of them, you are unwittingly sharing your personal information along with that of family and friends all while buying gifts for strangers.  And then there’s this: It’s a pyramid scheme, and it’s illegal.

Then of course there’s the Gift Card Scam. The scam promises a free gift card from a legitimate business. This scam also comes in lots of different forms. You may get an email or a text message… or you’ll see a pop-up or social media ad. But often when you click, you unleash malware on your device.

Okay, I promised my top three, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t include this one that I, as a parent, find especially repugnant. Those adorable free holiday apps where your kiddo can video chat with Santa or watch the big guy feed his reindeer may be a scam. Read the privacy policy. They may be collecting all kinds of data about you. Worse yet, some are filled with ads that trick you into purchases or they flood your device with malware.

Thanks for reading. My hope is that your holidays are merry and bright and scam-free.

For information on spotting social media scams, Panda Security has some great info here. And for information on spotting a fake Shopify store, see this story by the BBC.

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