holiday shopping

Beware of Shopping, Selling Scams This Holiday Season

“Don’t share your cell phone number,” and other tips to stay safe shopping and selling online this holiday shopping season.

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As Black Friday approaches and the holiday shopping season picks up, the Better Business Bureau Serving Connecticut wants to warn shoppers about potential online scams.

Shopping this holiday season?  

As Black Friday approaches and the holiday shopping season picks up, the Better Business Bureau Serving Connecticut wants to warn shoppers about potential online scams.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of snakes out there.  Just ask Kevin Patrick and Ayde Gallagher - the couple runs a licensed and legal reptile breeding facility in Berlin.

They say the business has become very popular online, not only to publicize their business, but to educate people about snakes too.

“What's not so good about social media, unfortunately, is that you open yourself up to a lot of bad exposure, meaning scams, and it happened to us,” said Ayde Gallagher.

This summer they say they learned someone was spoofing their business on Facebook, using their personal photos, videos, and information to deceive interested customers.

“We could say that imitation is flattery, but not in this case because this is ripping off people, good people.”

“Someone using our likeness to scam people. It just it literally made us sick,” she said. 

“There’s definitely red flags out there,” said Jackie MacKnight, the vice president of marketing, communications & community relations of the BBB serving Connecticut.

As the holiday season slithers closer and closer, the BBB is warning consumers of countless shopping scams on social media.

“Whether you're on TikTok, you're on Craigslist or on (Facebook) Marketplace, Instagram. You just have to be cautious of those ads. You have to be cautious of people that are wanting to buy product from you and where you're buying product from,” said MacKnight.

Ads like the one Karlyn Gilmore of Bristol says she clicked on last Christmas.

“An ad popped up that was these really cute mittens.”

But she says after placing her order, Gilmore discovered she got duped.

“Two weeks came, three weeks came, four weeks came,” she said her package never arrived.

Gilmore told NBC CT the tracking number she received wasn’t real.

Lots of bounced back emails and complaints later, the so-called company eventually sent her something completely different.

Her advice to consumers, “Don't just buy something because you think it's cute. I did that unfortunately and I learned my lesson for sure.”

With cash tight during the coronavirus crisis, Gilmore is urging people to stop and think before buying a gift online this holiday season.

“I'm going to vet it first. If I'm going to buy something online, it has to be from a reputable establishment or if not, I will read the reviews.”

The BBB suggests the same.

“If the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is,” warns MacKnight.

BBB TIPS TO AVOID SHOPPING SCAMS

-Make sure you’re browsing on a secure website.

 -Beware of bad spelling and grammar on the page.

--Search the item brand, company, or website with the word “complaint” and then really take the time to read reviews.

--Pay with a credit card when purchasing something online for more protection.

MacKnight advises, “Remove yourself from, you know, the purchase and really make sure that it's from a reputable honest seller.”

And that takes us back to the Gallaghers, who say despite lots of complaints to Facebook, the suspect account still exists.

“I've done everything short of you know, emailing, you know, like Mark Zuckerberg himself, but it's not gone anywhere,” said Ayde Gallagher.

So, they’ve taken matters into their own hands, warning interested customers that they’ll only connect through email and then follow up with a video call. That way you can see them and a snake face to face instead of falling for a fake.

“How dare they take a loved hobby of ours and try to make a profit illegally like this and scam such good people who really love animals like we do,” she said.

NBC CT is working to help KPG Snakes get the copycat profile taken offline.

Facebook hasn’t responded to multiple requests for comment.

Facebook’s website does offer tips to spot and avoid scams.

The BBB also suggests consumers check on these tips too.

If you’ve been targeted by a scam, the BBB asks you to help others avoid the same problem by reporting what you experienced to: BBB.org/ScamTracker

The Better Business Bureau is warning people selling items online to be careful about what personal information you give out.

KEEP YOURSELF SAFE SELLING ONLINE

Selling this holiday season?

If you’ve been cleaning out your closet or garage looking to make a buck or two, the BBB is also warning of a new selling scam.

One where the scammer asks you to prove you, the seller, is not a fraud and that’s where trustworthy people are getting tricked.

MacKnight says you’ll most likely come across it quickly if you list something for sale on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or even TikTok like she did, “I was just selling some furniture from my mother and I listed about four or five different items. And as soon as I listed those items up on the site, I got four or five, six people saying they were interested.”

But it’s what the would-be-buyers asked next that raised a red flag.

MacKnight explains, “And they said, ‘Can I have your phone number?’ No, you can't have my phone number.”

These potential scammers didn’t know who they were messing with, the VP of the Better Business Bureau Serving Connecticut.

“A lot of times people will fall for it and they'll just give their phone number over. You really have to protect your personal information,” she warns.

While sharing your phone number seems simple and harmless, you give it out to people all the time, right?

MacKnight says the trick here is that the scammer says they’re going to text you a six digit code that they want you to send back to them to prove you’re a real person.

“Once you give them that code, they then have your phone number registered as a Google voice phone number.”

And that’s where they can get you.

The BBB says the scammer can now use a Google Voice account, which they created with your phone number, to perpetrate other scams, which in many cases makes the out of country scammer look like they have a US based number.

Just like MacKnight warned us about NBC CT Reporter Caitlin Burchill listed an item she had laying around online. Within 20 minutes, a potential buyer asked her for a phone number to prove she wasn’t a scammer.

Red flag.

Google Voice has steps on its site to help you reclaim your voice number.

Google tells NBC CT, “Google has counter measures in place and we are taking action on the Google Voice accounts created as part of this scheme. Of note, the scam is largely just using a person's phone number to help the scammer appear as if he/she has access to a US-based phone. It should not impact the person being scammed in any other way.”

They say there are similar scams out there, so never share those “one-time” passwords with people you don’t know.

“Scammers are everywhere, you just have to take that extra time to look,” said MacKnight.

She suggests folks take a look at these other tips before selling anything online: