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Better Business Bureau reminds consumers of holiday scams

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Better Business Bureau came up with a little song to the tune of an old classic to remind residents of the scams the holiday season will bring.

"On the twelfth day of Christmas, the scammers gave to me:" starts the "12 Scams of Christmas" song released Wednesday by the business bureau.

If you know the song, you know there are twelve days of gifts to be given, but in this case none of these "gifts" are pleasant.

The song is an easy way to remember the 12 scams that are most prevalent around the holiday season.

Among the scams are malware e-cards that travel in email attachments or links. The bureau warns against opening emails from unfamiliar addresses. The best course of action there is to just delete it.

The plight of stranded grandchildren is another common one, the bureau warned. A person claiming to be a grandchild or relative will call with a story about being hurt, stranded or sometimes even arrested before asking for cash. If you receive such a call, verify it's actually a relative and that their story is true before sending any money.

If the price looks too good to be true, it probably is. The bureau warns that low prices on luxurious goods could be a tip that the item is a fake.

"Low prices on luxurious goods are almost always cheap counterfeits," the press release said. "At best, you'll look like a Scrooge. At worse, you may be helping finance drug traffickers or terrorists."

Pickpockets are another common threat. Keep your purse or wallet close and secure. Thieves are waiting for shoppers to get distracted or put down their bags for a chance to snatch them.

Always make sure to buy gift cards from reputable dealers, not online or from individuals. The bureau warns that it's easy for scammers to sell the card, and then use it before the buyer can. Also be on the lookout for fake coupons and always make sure to use the retailer's website and not to provide any personal information.

It might seem Grinchy to use Santa to commit identity theft, but it happens. A letter from Santa to your child might sound like the icing on the gingerbread house, but make sure the website is real before giving out personal information that could later be used to commit identity theft.

Many give to charity this time of year, but it's never a bad idea to make sure the charity is real first. Pay close attention as some scammers set up fake charities that have names very similar to real ones.

And watch out for those fake websites that can look closely like those of their real counterparts.

"It's easy to mimic a real website, with logos and everything," the bureau warned.

Some things that might stand out are if when using a secure site "http" is displayed in the address bar instead of "https," or if no contact or location information is listed. If the website is asking for payment by wire or money card, then it's probably better to just stay away.

Travel scams are another common ploy. Be cautious when booking travel through online ads. It's never a bad idea to ask friends or family for recommendations on trusted travel websites or agencies.

Scammers prey on the lonely around the holidays and with so many people turning to online dating, it's easier than ever for scammers to find a target.

"Everyone wants a special someone under the mistletoe, so the holidays are a prime time for scams," the release said. "Be careful when finding an online sweetheart especially one that gets cozy too fast or asks for money."

The final scam involves puppies. The bureau warns animal lovers to be careful if buying pets online, especially around the holidays, because they could be buying a pet from a puppy mill. Dogs bred in puppy mills come with a lot of problems.

Even worse, a person may pay for their pup and get nothing at all.

Puppies, dogs, cats, kittens and sometimes other critters are also available for adoption at local shelters, like the Kanawha Charleston Humane Association at 1248 Greenbrier Street and the Putnam County animal shelter along W.Va. 62 near the Winfield Bridge. Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at ashley.craig@dailymail.com or 304-348-4850.


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