Buyers beware: higher number of scams during holiday period

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COLUMBIA - The holiday period is a busy time for scams targeting shoppers, according to Michelle Gleba, Regional Director for the Better Business Bureau.

"These types of scams occur all throughout the year, but even more so during the holidays, because we probably let our guard down a little bit because we've got so many other things on our plate," Gleba said.

With more and more people turning to online shopping, scams try to take advantage of people looking for a good deal.

"If the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is," Gleba said.  

Another common scam is setting up a fake charity. The best thing Gleba said a consumer can do is research. 

"You need to look for the name of the charity and research that exact name," Gleba said. 

Jeff Pitts, a Columbia Police Department spokesperson, echos consumers' need for research. 

"You want to take time to think about it, you want to ensure if you make a purchase, specifically online, that you are making a smart choice," Pitts said.  

Gleba said getting the exact name is important because fake charities may use a similar name to an existing charity. For example, they may try to get someone to donate to the fake "Wounded Warrior Foundation" as opposed to the real "Wounded Warrior Project."

Also, Gleba warns against donating to any charity that is asking for money in the same day.

"A real charity knows your money is as good today as it is tomorrow," Gleba said. 

Pitts said the police department is seeing an increased number of issues with websites like Craigslist and Facebook marketplace where buyers need to meet sellers in person.

"We see a rash of issues where you will meet up with someone where they will rob you or steal the merchandise," Pitts said. 

CPD is providing its lobby as a safe space for the people who are making face-to-face transactions.

The BBB also provides tips on how to avoid scammers this holiday season on its website.