As holiday shopping fairs go virtual, scammers cash in

Last year, many local in-person events, such as pop-up holiday markets or craft fairs, moved online. This holiday shopping season, some event organizers are continuing to play it safe and keep things virtual. This means scammers can reuse last year’s trick – creating phony copycat events that charge for admission and steal your credit card information. Plus, con artists have had a year to practice, making these fraudulent virtual events appear even more legitimate. 

How the Scam Works:

You hear that your city’s annual holiday market or another shopping event will be held virtually this year. After searching for it online, you find a social media post or event page promoting the event and learn, in addition to being virtual, there is another difference this year. The event, which has been free in the past, is now requiring a paid ticket. You enter your credit card number and personal information, such as your full name and address.

Unfortunately, the “ticket” is a scam! The event information you found was posted by scammers and not affiliated with the actual holiday market. Con artists create fake event pages, social posts, and emails to confuse attendees into sharing their credit card number and compromising their personal information. 

Another twist on this scam is that 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 reported to BBB that after clicking on the links provided, thinking they led to an online shop, it directed them to a website that downloaded malware.

Tips to avoid holiday event scams:

Is there an admission fee? Visit the event’s website to see if you need to purchase an admission ticket for the 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 scammed. 

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, do an online search for that vendor’s store rather than follow the link provided.

Use a credit card. When making any purchases, use your credit card. This way, if anything gets charged that wasn’t supposed to be, you can file a claim with your credit card company. If the vendor requires payment through gift cards or other abnormal processes, it is best to walk away. 

Keep your receipts. Make a note of all your purchases and save your receipts. If you have a question about a product or need to make a return, you will have the vendor’s information readily available.

Know the return policy. Before making a purchase, ask the vendor what their return policy is so you will not run into issues after the holidays. Be sure to ask how the business will handle shipping and handling costs for items returned through the mail. 

Read more about holiday pop-up shops and event scams on BBB.org. 

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