BBB: Scammers hungry to steal your information, money this holiday shopping season

Shopping for the perfect holiday gift is a tradition around this time of year, but it also means it’s hunting season for thieves and scammers.

As more and more people shift from in-store shopping for Christmas gifts to online shopping, Northeast Florida Better Business Bureau President Tom Stephens advised shoppers to pay close attention to the website their shopping on, especially when scammers are preying on shoppers looking for the best deals.

Stephens said a bulk of scams reported to the BBB are tied to social media advertisements that claim to have popular items that are sold out at brick-and-mortar stores.

“They don’t have any of the product. Once they take your credit card, they take your money, close the company down, close out the bank account, and they’re done,” Stephens said.

Stephens also said these are not isolated scams that happen periodically.

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“That is the number one scam we get reported on year-round: online shopping. People buy stuff and either get fake merchandise or no merchandise at all,” Stephens said.

Individual shopping websites can also be deceiving if you don’t know what to look for. Most legitimate shopping sites will have a lock symbol in the URL bar and show “HTTPS” in the URL to let browsers know that a transaction is about to be made on a secure site.

When it comes to Christmas shopping in stores, more credit and debit card readers are generally safe, but there have been times when shoppers’ card information has been stolen due to stores experiencing a data breach by hackers. Using cash has been considered a safer option. However, depending on how much is planned to be spent, it’s best not to walk around with a large sum of cash visible to potential crooks.

“With a credit card, you have protection if the product goes bad. If the product is bad, you can dispute the charge. If you pay cash, you’re at the mercy of the merchant at that point and time. So, there are pros and cons of doing that,” Stephens said.

However people choose to shop this holiday season, they should take extra precautions to protect their money and identities, Stephens advised.

A radio frequency identification (RFID) wallet is another way to protect credit card information. It is built to prevent thieves with handheld scanners from electronically stealing card information by scanning your wallet, which could be in your back pocket.

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