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BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU - Beware of holiday scams

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1. The Trademark Registration and Monitoring Office sends fake invoices to businesses stating “important information regarding your federal trademark.” A local business received the invoice that states they must “pay the full amount of $485 to avoid additional penalties.” The company has an “F” rating with the BBB.

2. A bogus email about Goodwill is making its rounds. The email states “Goodwill CEO, Mark Curran, profits $2.3 million a year, he pays nothing for his products, and that no money goes to help anyone.” No Mark Curran has ever been CEO of Goodwill. Locally, Goodwill is a BBB Accredited Charity. Go to www.bbb.org/charity for information.

3. Beware of Online Dating Scams. A local resident was chatting on an online dating site and gave out his phone number. He received a call from “Sgt. Ramirez,” who demanded money to keep someone from filing a pedophile complaint against him. The man was told to wire transfer $460 to keep a warrant from being filed against him. This is a scam.

4. Ransomware: If you receive a warning that appears to be from the FBI that says your computer is blocked due to the illegal viewing or distribution of copyright content and that you must pay a fine, it is a scam. Ransomware is installed by clicking malicious attachments or links in email, instant messages, social networking sites or other websites. Once infected, computers become unusable, needing repairs.

5. Mobile Phone Scams are on the rise. Smartphone users are app crazy, but as the popularity of apps grow, so are the chances you could download a malicious app designed to steal your information. Also beware of images you click on that could carry a virus that could infect your device.

6. Online Classified sites can be a great place to look for holiday gifts and part-time jobs, but beware of phony offers that ask for personal information or ask you to wire funds via Western Union. These are most likely scams.

7. Beware of iPhone 5 and iPad Mini Scams. Scam artists take advantage of the buzz surrounding new, hot products. They will mention the gift in dangerous links, phony contests, and phishing emails.

8. Skype Message Scam: If you plan to use Skype over the holidays to connect with loved ones, beware of the messages you click on. A new message scam that attempts to infect computers and hold files for ransom is going around. Delete it.

9. ECards are a popular way to send a holiday greeting, but some are malicious, containing spyware or viruses that download onto your computer. Only open e-cards from a trusted source, if you open them at all.

10. Delivery Scams: If you receive an email from what appears to be UPS Shipments that states “your package has arrived,” and it asks you to click on a link, delete it! This is a phishing scam. Other emails ask you to download a form, which ends up containing a virus. Similar emails can come from “Fed Ex.”

11. Scam artists offer Fake Gift Cards online. Be wary of buying gift cards from third parties. Buy from sources you know and trust. If buying at the store, be sure the card has not been tampered with. Also, read the fine print before you buy.

12. Check Dear Santa Websites before your child logs on. While many are legitimate, some could be potentially dangerous, asking for personal information, or could have unwelcome content. Check the links on the site, the privacy policy, and do not share too much personal information. After all, Santa already knows where you live.