As millions of holiday shoppers go online in search of Cyber Monday deals, the Better Business Bureau is warning people to be wary of phony online coupons that appear this time of year.
The fake coupons appear to come from national retailers offering huge discounts. They often show up through Facebook accounts.
Not only are the counterfeit coupons not good in stores, clicking on them can expose you to scammers who are hoping to get access to your social media profiles so they can target your online friends.
How can you tell a fake online coupon from a real one? The BBB has this advice:
Poor grammar/spelling. Legitimate companies do not share posts on social media with spelling, capitalization, and common grammar errors.
Check the URL. Most legitimate companies have a very simple web address. If you hover over the hyperlink and the website address looks fishy, don’t click it.
Is the offer too good to be true? It probably is! Most companies don’t offer large discounts for free. While it would be nice, remember, the ultimate goal of the scammer is to get a hold of your personal information or access to your Facebook friends list or in some cases, access to your computer or device.
BBB recommends the following when it comes to avoiding clickbait on social media:
Don’t take the bait. Stay away from promotions of “exclusive” or “one time offer.” If it is too good to be true, it’s probably a scam.
When in doubt, check it out. Go to the retailer’s page or to the website to see if there is an offer there that looks identical to the offer on social media.
Don’t trust your “friends” online. It might not actually be your friends who are “liking” or sharing scam links to photos. Their account may have been hacked and scammers could be using another tactic called “clickjacking” (Clickjacking is a technique that scammers use to trick you into clicking on social media links on which you would not usually click).
You can also use BBB’s Scam Tracker to see if the scam has been reported by someone else and to report it yourself.
Christmas counterfeiters are also hoping to sell you unsafe electrical devices online - especially power cords for holiday decorations.
Dave Gordon, President & CEO of the Gordon Companies which operates Dave's Christmas Wonderland and https://www.christmascentral.com/, said the counterfeit power cords will not have a UL approved sticker (or CSA approved sticker in Canada) on the product or its box.
As a result, the non-approved electrical item has a much higher chance of starting a fire with your holiday decorations.
How can you tell if it is counterfeit?
Gordon said counterfeit power cords often have smaller plugs, thinner wiring and discolored plastic that has been made from recycled products.
"If they don't have a UL stamp on the cord, or the box it came in - be wary of it. Return it. Don't use it. Very dangerous," added Dave Gordon.
The best way to avoid buying counterfeit electrical products is to purchase from reputable retailers.
Counterfeit items are a serious concern for law enforcement. Consumers can report information about counterfeit products to the following: Homeland Security Investigations Tip Line: 866-DHS-2-ICE
7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly has more in the attached report.