Better Business Bureau warns consumers of holiday scams

Friday, December 3, 2010 | 6:33 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers against five common scams they can face as they shop online and in stores this holiday season.

Adrian McBride, the branch manager for the Better Business Bureau in mid-Missouri, said the list is released to keep people aware of their surroundings and avoid scams.

"We just want to do as much as we can to protect consumers," said McBride.

Chris Thetford, the communications director of the Better Business Bureau in St. Louis, said the top five scams are selected based on the scams that have warranted the most customer complaints this year. The top scams for this year include:

  • Online shopping scams: A sign of online shopping scams can be an abnormally low price for a normally expensive item. The Better Business Bureau suggests consumers opt to shop locally and conduct transactions in person rather than on some websites that are known for fraud, like Craigslist or eBay.
  • Identity theft at the mall: Identity theft can occur as shoppers struggle with their shopping bags or check out at the register. Consumers should stay alert of their surroundings and keep track of their belongings.
  • Bogus charitable pleas: Beware of solicitations from charities that demand on-the-spot donations, don't deliver on their promises, or don't carry through on their plans.
  • Phishing e-mails: This is a common way for hackers to get personal information or break into computers. Beware of e-cards from companies like UPS or Fed-Ex with links to tracking information. Also, make sure the e-mail isn't malicious before clicking on any links or opening any attachments from the e-mail.

Consumers aren't the only people at risk for scams this season. Some local retailers, too, are already preparing for the fraud that can possibly occur.

Mark Mercurio, district manager of the downtown boutique Envy, held a store meeting to prepare his staff to deal with shoplifting and other threats.

"We're checking bigger bills we get to make sure they're real, we're running all the checks through TeleCheck, and we're being aware of shoplifting," Mercurio said.

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