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Better Business Bureau warns of 2014 holiday schemes

Top schemes to watch, tips to avoid becoming victim

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers of some naughty holiday schemes.

Gift card schemes

Purchasing gift cards is an easy gift to give another during the holidays, but it's also one of the easiest ways scammers can steal gift money long before it's ever spent. Handheld scanners give con artists the ability to obtain the information from the gift card as it hangs on the rack waiting to be purchased. A scammer can periodically call the 800 number listed on the card to verify it has been purchased. Once activated, the gift card can easily be used to make online purchases.

TIP: Only buy gift cards secured behind the customer service desk and always ask the retailer to provide a receipt showing any pre-paid cards are fully valued.

Puppy scams

Creating fake websites purporting to be puppy breeders is an easy way to con pet lovers. Before the dog is delivered, the expecting buyer must pay the adoption fee, shipping costs, insurance and veterinarian fees via wire transfer. Once the money is sent, the con artist tells the would-be owner the puppy is ready, but the dog is never delivered.

TIP: Always check out the breeder with the BBB before making a purchase. Visit the breeding facility, check out the breeder's credentials with the American Kennel Club and obtain an independent veterinarian checkup to ensure the puppy is healthy before the adoption.

Gift basket shams

A deliveryman arrives with a basket of flowers and wine as a gift. Because it contains alcohol, a delivery charge payable only by debit or credit card is required as proof the gift was delivered to someone 21 or older. However, it's an easy way for a scammer to use a duplicate card containing the person's information.

TIP: Never agree to pay for unexpected gifts. 

Holiday job offers

'Tis the season for holiday job opportunities. But often job seekers can be conned into collecting payments from clients in the U.S. and wiring the funds to an overseas company with the instruction to keep a percentage of the money. However, the collected payments can be for non-existent merchandise sold through online auction sites. Auction bidders would bid on an item and send in their payment to the seller, only to find out later that the merchandise never existed.

TIP: Never forward or transfer money from any of your personal accounts on behalf of your employer. Also, be suspicious if you are asked to wire money to an employer. If a legitimate job requires you to make money transfers, the money should be withdrawn from the employer's business account.

Charity schemes

Plenty of people claim to accept donations to help children in need during the holidays. But, in some instances, those claiming to be the charity administrators keep the money and use it for personal gain.

TIP: Check with the BBB to ensure the charity meets its standards for charitable accountability. 

Holiday rental schemes

Scammers post fake holiday rentals asking for deposits on listed properties. The buyer soon learns the property doesn't exist, leaving that person out of money and a place to stay.

TIP: Never wire money to anyone you don't know. Also, do your research on the property to make sure it exists. Ask for pictures and phone numbers of recent renters. If the price is extremely low, take this as a red flag and look for somewhere else to stay.

iPad scams 

Some con artists run advertisements for cheap iPads or tell consumers they'll receive a free iPad after additional purchases. In reality, the consumer never receives the iPad.

TIP: Beware of deals that sound too good to be true. Consumers should be extremely cautious of low prices on hard-to-get items and should never provide personal information to unfamiliar parties.

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