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TheStreet Open House

Ho Ho Hold On Before Sending Money To People You Haven’t Met

Stocks in this article: WU

The perfect puppy for a spouse, a car priced just right for your teenager. Sales and special offers typically increase during the holidays, and scammers are also poised to try to steal people’s hard-earned cash. Western Union and Better Business Bureau are equipping consumers with important tips to avoid falling for a scammer’s tricks when shopping for holiday gifts.

“Scam artists prey on consumers’ desire to make loved ones happy with special gifts during the holidays. They use this impulse to overcome the victim's reasoning, telling the victim that he or she must act quickly,” said Carrie Hurt, President and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. “Scam artists often sound so convincing that victims don't feel the need to check out their real qualifications. It’s always best to deal with established organizations. Rescue a puppy from a caring shelter or buy that car from a legitimate dealer.”

What else can consumers do? Visit BBB Scam Stopper, a site launched by Western Union and BBB to help consumers reduce their chances of becoming a victim of a scam. Western Union and BBB also remind consumers never to send a money transfer to an individual you have not met in person.

“Money transfer is a great way to send money quickly and conveniently to friends and loved ones,” said Shelley Bernhardt, Director of Consumer Protection at Western Union. “However, it is not intended for use when doing business with someone you have not met face-to-face.”

It is particularly important to use caution when bidding on items using an online auction. Buyers are told the seller only accepts money transfers for payment. The “seller” tells the buyer to put the transaction in a fictitious name, falsely convincing the victim this protects their money until the goods or services are received. The “seller” retrieves the funds and the merchandise never arrives.

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