Gifts, gifts, gifts: the holiday shopping season is here.

Many local in-person events, such as pop-up holiday markets or craft fairs, have moved online as a precaution to the pandemic. But beware — Scammers are creating phony copycat events that charge for admission and steal credit card information, according to the Better Business Bureau.

How the Scam Works:

BBB warns holiday markets, craft shows, and other in-person shopping festivals have moved online. So have scammers.

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An annual holiday market or another shopping event is announced that it will be held virtually this year. After searching for details online and finding a social media post or event page, you happen to notice a large detail is also different this year. The event, traditionally free in the past, is now requiring a paid ticket. Thinking that perhaps this is a change to offset any lost income or to benefit local retailers, a decision is made to enter the credit card number and personal information, such as full name and address in the registration fields required on the web page.

Unfortunately, the “ticket” is a scam, according to a BBB press release. The event information found was posted by scammers not affiliated with the real holiday market. Instead, con artists created fake event pages, social posts, and emails to confuse past and present attendees into sharing their credit card as well as personal information.

More Twists

In another twist on this scam, some virtual holiday markets have a website or social media page where vendors can post photos of their products and links to their websites. Be careful here, too. Some consumers tell BBB that they clicked the links provided, thinking they lead to an online shop. Instead, they accidentally downloaded malware.

Tips to Avoid Holiday Event Scams:

  • Is there an admission fee? Visit the event’s website directly to see if an admission ticket is required for a virtual event. If not, watch for scammers trying to claim otherwise. If this happens, message the event coordinator to help prevent other virtual attendees from being taken advantage of.
  • Research vendors and the host. If the event is unfamiliar to you, research the host and list of vendors ahead of time. While virtually browsing from booth to booth, make sure you are only clicking on the links provided. If you are unsure if a shop is legitimate, search for them online in a separate browser for the vendor’s store rather than follow the link provided.
  • Use a credit card. When making any purchases, use a credit card. This way if anything gets charged that wasn’t supposed to be, a claim can be filed with the credit card company.
  • Keep your receipts. Make note of all purchases and save receipts. If there is a question about a product or it needs to be returned, the vendor’s information is readily available.
  • Understand the return policy. Before making a purchase, ask the vendor what the return policy is if it is not clearly posted in the booth.

Source: IABBB