The holidays are always a time of gratitude and generosity. For many, it sparks the need of thankfulness and the opportunity to spread good tidings and gifts to charitable organizations. It is also the perfect opportunity for scammers, who capitalize on the good cheer spread by hardworking people. The 2022 Better Business Bureau (BBB) Scam Tracker Risk Report found that online purchase scams accounted for nearly a third of all scams reported to BBB Scam Tracker in 2022. Consumers and businesses reported losing over $2,900,000 collectively to online purchase scams between the months of November and December in 2022, according to BBB Scam Tracker reports. Product shortages and increased online shopping will likely result in even more online purchase scams this year.
According to the Better Business Bureau the top five scams this holiday include:
1. Misleading social media ads —consumers have reported paying for items they never receive or getting charged monthly for a free trial they never signed up for. Consumers should research a business at www.BBB.org before they buy.
2. Social media gift exchanges — Most of these are illegal pyramid schemes. Stick to buying gifts from trustworthy businesses.
3. Holiday-themed apps — Consumers should always review privacy policies to see what information will be collected and know that free apps may contain malware and more ad pop-ups than others. This information can be used to hack into your computer or phone and be used to illegally obtain information from you.
4. Fake texts that say you have been hacked — Contact the business directly and do not click on any links.
5. Free gift cards — Do not open unsolicited emails or text messages with gift card offers, and do not click on links in pop-up ads. Instead, mark it as spam or junk. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
If you are interested in helping others this holiday season, I suggest donating to the following charitable organizations:
1. Thurgood Marshall College Fund and United Negro College Fund—both organizations help support students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. These historic institutions continue to produce the nation’s preeminent Black professionals and your support can help the next generation of African American teachers, lawyers, engineers, and doctors. For more information, please visit www.tmcf.org or www.uncf.org.
2. The Salvation Army-We’ve all seen the volunteers ringing bells outside of local stores during the holiday season. Did you know that money helps serve families year-round? The Salvation Army’s programs aid families who experience fires, natural disasters, and traumatic experiences. They serve the entire community through providing meals, winter coats, emergency housing, and addiction counseling. Your spare change goes a long way, so be sure to drop it in the bucket.
3. Program The Parks MKE—a local organization that provides year-round mentorship and programming for youth in the City of Milwaukee. Born out of the Sherman Park uprising, this volunteer-driven organization works with youth to ensure they remain engaged in healthy activity in our county parks. For more information, contact Vaun Mayes or visit Program the Parks MKE on Facebook.
4. St. Josephine Bakhita House-A Catholic worker ministry that serves women transitioning from human trafficking. The house provides holistic care to residents providing housing, job training, and education. For more information, please contact Anne Haines at (414) 395-0696 or www.bakhitahouse.org
In this season of giving, please remember to be safe. Protecting your personal information online or in person requires diligence.