Christmas is a popular time for scams, Better Business Bureau warns

Christmas is a not only a time of gift-giving and gatherings, it is also a time when people are vulnerable to scams, the Better Business Bureau warns.

'Scammers and fraudsters are really counting on our lack of attention ... and our emotion'

The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers to be aware of scams this holiday season. (Better Business Bureau)

Christmas is a time of gift-giving and gatherings, but also a time when people can be vulnerable to scams, the Better Business Bureau warns.

While scams happen all year long, many are "amped up" over the holidays, said Seanna Lawrence, president and CEO of the BBB of central and northern Alberta.

"Scammers and fraudsters are really counting on our lack of attention ... and our emotion," she said.

The bureau released a list of common holiday scams, and Lawrence highlighted some that have happened in Alberta.

Phoney charities

Charitable giving is big during the holiday season, with 40 per cent of all donations made during the last few weeks of the year, the bureau said in a news release.

People need to watch out for scammers who try to "prey on your emotion of giving," Lawrence said.

Phoney charities are typically set up with names similar to established charities or organizations.

"Unfortunately, there are people who make up fake stories and fake accounts directing you where to send money," Lawrence said.

She suggested doing an online search of the organization to review its website.

At Christmas, some families consider buying pets. Again, people should be careful.

Use a legitimate organization, such as the SPCA, to obtain a pet, said Seanna Lawrence of the Better Business Bureau. (Youtube)

In 2017, a woman in Red Deer paid $700 for a hairless cat she found on Kijiji, Lawrence said. It turned out the cat was not a hairless breed; it had been shaved and de-whiskered, she said.

"When it comes to purchasing an animal, definitely don't go meet somebody in a parking lot," she said.

She suggested going through a recognized organization, such as the SPCA or the humane society.

Electronic Christmas cards can be sent from anyone to anyone at no cost. The convenience can create headaches if the e-card contains viruses.

The easiest thing is to simply not click on emails or email attachments sent from people you don't know, said Lawrence.

Shopping thefts

People shopping during the holiday season may put down purses or bags while they handle or look at merchandise, Lawrence said. That's when thieves strike.

"There are pickpocketers who are counting on this and who are kind of waiting in the wings looking for people whose guards are down, to either steal money, purses, credit cards or even the gifts themselves," she said.

While people who have been taken in by scams may be embarrassed or ashamed, it's important they report them to the bureau, Lawrence said.

"It's really important so that we can help others out," she said.

The Better Business Bureau has an online tracker to alert people to scams by category and location, she said.