How to avoid online holiday shopping scams

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CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — While social media may be a safe space to be with family and friends, it can be a dark back alley when it comes to shopping — especially around the holidays.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has released its “12 Scams of Christmas.” And in the top two spots are “misleading social media ads” and “phony social media gift exchanges.”

“As you scroll through your social media feed, you often see items for sale from a small business. Sometimes the business even claims to support a charity to try to get you to order, or they offer a free trial. BBB Scam Tracker receives reports of people paying for items that they never receive, getting charged monthly for a free trial they never signed up for, or receiving an item that is counterfeit or much different from the one advertised,” the BBB said.

Bill Stanton, author of “Prepared Not Scared: Your Go-To Guide For Staying Safe In An Unsafe World,” said a lot of it comes down to the amount of time people spend online.

“Many of us across the country spend way too much time, in my opinion, in the cyber world,” he said. “Just scrolling, scrolling, scrolling, and they stay there long enough … ‘Oh, I’ll buy that. I’ll click on that.’”

Stanton said some people are also sucked in because they may see these ads on places they consider safe, such as Facebook or Instagram.

“They think that they’ve been vetted and they’re going to be protected by Facebook when in reality, no such thing happens,” he said.

According to Stanton, the most important thing when shopping online is caution. Many people have sensitive data on their phones, such as bank account numbers and Social Security numbers. He believes that’s what many of these bad actors are ultimately after.

“They can then misuse [personal information] into making themselves as your identity. So we need to take personal responsibility, and not be so quick to click on many of these items,” he said.

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