How to avoid holiday scams

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Q. During the holiday season, what fraud and scam schemes are being reported to BBB?

A. Although the holidays provide time for family and celebration, scammers put seasonal spins on everyday scams. During this hectic time, consumers may be too focused on finding the right gifts and best deals to recognize red flags.

Some scams are more common than others during the holidays, but the best way to avoid them is knowing how to spot them. Your Better Business Bureau, is breaking down which scams to be aware of this holiday season.

Hot toy scams. Every year, the season's most popular toys sell out in stores and on retailer websites, forcing parents to turn elsewhere to find them. A frantic search can lead them to a convincing website that claims to have the toy on sale. Unfortunately, these websites are often fake, and eager shoppers pay for items that never arrive. With the increase in online purchase scams this year, it is especially important to shop smart online.

Buy from reputable retailers. Buying directly from brands you trust - in-store or online - is the best way to avoid being scammed. If you decide to use a new retailer, view its business profile on to read customer reviews and check the accreditation status.

Watch for extra-low prices. Scammers often lure customers in with unbeatable sales and deep discounts. Look for the item on multiple websites to see what the average cost is, and remember, if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Delivery scams and package theft. More online shopping means more package deliveries, which provide more opportunities for scammers to steal your information or even your purchases. You may receive an email informing you there is a problem with your delivery and providing a link to track your order. This is often the sign of a phishing scam, which can leave you vulnerable to identity theft. Other risks include package theft, with thieves watching doorsteps or following delivery trucks, waiting to steal your package.

Watch for suspicious messages. Most legitimate delivery services leave a missed delivery notice on your door, so be cautious if you receive communication via email, text or phone call. Use the official tracking number sent with your order confirmation to keep an eye on your delivery.

Request a signature. Ensuring your deliveries aren't left unattended is the easiest way to prevent package theft. Although requesting a signature may cost a small fee, the extra protection is often worth it. For retailers that offer it, you can have your package shipped to package lockers that are popping up in a variety of locations.

Seasonal employment scams. As many employers need help during their busiest time of year, the holidays create more opportunities for employment scams, which were named the riskiest scam two consecutive years by the BBB Risk Report. Individuals often look for extra income during the holidays, making them especially vulnerable to employment scams.

Know the signs. Watch for red flags like big money for small jobs, offers without interviews and employers requesting payment for training. If you are still unsure about a job opportunity, view the company's business profile to check its rating on

Don't work before you're hired. A legitimate company will not ask you to begin a project before hiring you. Before starting any work, ask for an offer letter or confirmation in writing. These documents should include details about the job, compensation and applicable benefits.

For more tips on holiday safety, visit

Jim Winsett is president of the Better Business Bureau in Chattanooga.