'Tis the season for holiday shopping - and also holiday scams. Swindlers are out in full force during the holidays, capitalizing on these busy times.

Washington State is the 14th most at risk state in the nation

Leeta Scott, director of the A-A-R-P Fraud Fighter Call Center in Washington state, says distracted consumers can fall prey to scammers more easily, so it's best to stay vigilant. Charity scams are a big problem this time of year. Scott says criminals are aware that legitimate charities are making their year-end push for donations.
SocialCatfish.com has released a study on Online Shopping Scams to Avoid This Holiday Season using data from the Federal Trade Commission and the FBI. The study says "Washington State is the number 14 most at-risk state in the U.S., having lost $88 million to fraudsters last year, when a record $4.2 billion was stolen nationally."

Most fraud happens with online shopping

Where are people in the state seeing the most fraud? The officials say it's online shopping.

According to SocialCatfish.com there are 5 Online Shopping Scams to Avoid This Holiday Season:

1.      MISSING PACKAGE SCAM: Capitalizing on inevitable supply chain delays, scammers pretend to be FedEx and send an email with a link to track your package. When clicked on, these malicious links steal your personal and financial information. They also may text, leave voicemails, or place a “missed delivery” tag on your front door.
How to Avoid: Never click a link or call back a number from an unexpected delivery notice. Always contact the company directly using a verified number or website.

2.      SOCIAL MEDIA SECRET SANTA: A pyramid scheme called “Secret Sister” is circulating on Facebook. Scammers recruit “sisters” with the promise that if they buy a $10 gift for another member, they will receive 36 gifts in return. A version of this scam includes exchanging bottles of wine.
How to Avoid: Do not respond to communication from “Secret Sister” or do an exchange “for the good of the sisterhood.”

3.      FAKE RETAILERS AND WEBSITES: Look out for fake websites that advertise enormous sales on popular gift ideas that are out of stock everywhere else due to supply chain issues. Fake sites have a domain name with an extraneous letter or number, grammatical errors, and limited contact information.
How to Avoid: Research the company and read customer reviews before purchasing. Google their name with the word “scam” to see if anything comes up.

4.      HOLIDAY CHARITY GIFT SCAM: In addition to traditional gifting, people may donate to charity on someone’s behalf. This increased during COVID-19 and ramps up every year during the season of giving. Scammers pose as a fake charity to solicit fraudulent donations. Often, they pick a name that sounds close to a well-known charity.
How to Avoid: Search the charity on a public database such as BBB Wise Giving Alliance and Charity Navigator.

5.      FAKE INSTAGRAM GIVEAWAYS: Around the holidays, brands and influencers offer free product giveaways. Scammers are using a technique called “like-farming,” where they ask you to like or comment on their post for a chance to win a holiday prize. They include malicious links and steal your personal information.
How to Avoid: Look for the blue checkmark which social media platforms use to verify a real page from copycats. Watch for typos and accounts with limited content.

Questions? Concerns? Contact the BBB

The scammers in the Yakima area target the elderly so tell your parents and grandparents about the scam. Officials from the Better Business Bureau and A-A-R-P say give locally to the organizations you trust and that have been operating in your community for years.
If you have any questions check out the charity at BBB.org.

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