Technology sure is great - when it's safe.
Bargain hunters flocking to the Internet for holiday sales could be in for a rude awakening.
The Better Business Bureau is warning that scammers are setting up shop online, using low prices to entice shoppers, but ultimately they won't deliver the goods.
The holidays are a happy time for food, family, and friendship, but they are also a time for fraud.
Consumers can fall into any number of traps over the holidays and become victim to identity thieves, hackers and deceptive merchants online, warns the Better Business Bureau of Eastern Michigan. The Better Business Bureau of Eastern Michigan serves the Upper Peninsula.
In fact, federal authorities shut down 150 websites accused of selling knock-off or pirated merchandise to unsuspecting online bargain hunters.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement and FBI officials this week seized the domain names for the sites that sold everything from fake replica NBA jerseys to replica Louis Vuitton handbags and imitation Ugg boots.
"This is straight crime," said Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton. "This is people being duped into buying a counterfeit."
The federal government has seized the domain names of 350 websites since first targeting online counterfeiters in June 2010.
With more shoppers expected to head to the Internet this season, scammers know they can take advantage of consumers who are looking for bargains.
Potential scams are not restricted to one area, or even one country.
"While the rest of us are pulling the decorations out of the attic, scammers are blowing the dust off of their tried and true holiday scams," said Patrick Bennett, BBB Director of Community Relations. "We can all help make these holiday scams a ghost of Christmas' past by not falling for them anymore."
Does that motto "shop locally" ring a bell?
For those who insist on buying online, Better Business Bureau of Eastern Michigan is offering some online shopping tips.
- We're all looking for a great deal online, but some sites offer electronics or luxury goods at prices that are too good to be true. Every holiday season BBB hears from holiday shoppers who paid for a supposedly great deal online, but received nothing in return.
BBB advice: Always look for the BBB seal when shopping online and click on the seal to confirm it is legitimate. When shopping on sites that aren't household names, check with the BBB before you buy at easternmichigan.bbb.org.
- Every year, holiday shoppers fight over the "must have" toy or gadget of the season. When the item is sold out in stores, you can often find it online through sites like Craigslist or eBay-for a much steeper price. The problem is that some sellers will take your money and run.
BBB Advice: Shop locally and conduct the transaction in person-never wire money as payment. When purchasing items on auctions like eBay, research the seller extensively and always listen to your doubts if the deal doesn't sound legit.
- While you're struggling at the mall with bags of presents, identity thieves see an opportunity to steal your wallet and debit or credit card numbers.
BBB Advice: Don't let yourself get bogged down in purchases and lose track of your wallet. Know where your credit and debit cards are at all times and cover the keypad when entering your pin number while purchasing items or getting money from the ATM. If your credit cards have RFID chips, protect them with an RFID sleeve.
- The holidays are a time of giving which creates a great opportunity for scammers to solicit donations to line their own pockets. Also beware of solicitations from charities that don't necessarily deliver on their promises or are ill-equipped to carry through on their plans.
BBB Advice: Always research a charity with the BBB Wise Giving Alliance before you give to see if the charity meets the Standards for Charity Accountability.
- Phishing e-mails are a common way for hackers to get at your personal information or break into your computer. Common phishing e-mails around the holidays include e-cards and messages pretending to be from companies like UPS or Fedex with links to package tracking information.
BBB Advice: Don't click on any links or open any attachments to e-mails until you have confirmed that they are not malicious. E-mail addresses that don't match up, typos and grammatical mistakes are common red flags of a malicious phishing e-mail. Also beware of unsolicited e-mails from companies with which you have no association.