Avoid holiday scammers with these tips

By Rachel Lucas - Weekend Anchor / Reporter

ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - The holiday shopping season is in full swing with just 25 shopping days until Christmas.

When checking off your holiday shopping list, saving a few extra bucks is always ideal; however, Julie Wheeler, President and CEO of BBB Serving Western VA, said you aren't the only one looking for an opportunity.

"People are doing a lot of buying, so obviously it's an opportune time for scammers to see if they can get a little bit of your money and there are a lot of ways they can do it," Wheeler said.

This year, the FBI warned consumers to watch out for "increasingly aggressive and creative scams," many of which are now targeting online shoppers.

"Social media has opened up a whole new world for that as well," Wheeler said.

Social media is flooded with sponsored ads from retailers, but Wheeler said to think twice before clicking on a deal that seems too good to be true.

"They can set up a website and sell a popular thing that nobody else has, whether it's a gaming system or those little Hatchimals that are popular this year," Wheeler said.

"They set up a site that looks legitimate and it isn't. You aren't going to get your merchandise and you are going to lose your money."

Wheeler said to always go directly to the retailer's website.

On the flip side of online shopping, many take advantage of one-on-one buying in person.

Now a fierce competitor with Craigslist, the Facebook Marketplace has 450 million active users.

It's a platform that can score you a good deal, or hide the perfect scam.

Scott Leamon, Crime Prevention Specialist with the Roanoke City Police Department said there are concerns about Craigslist, Facebook yard sale sites and the new marketplace.

"Concerns about who is selling this to you, are they as local as they say they are, are they selling you exactly what they tell you they are selling you?" Leamon pointed out.

Police urge the public to keep safety a priority when meeting strangers to buy and sell items.

Leamon said to never meet up with a stranger to buy or sell an item alone. He says to always meet in a well-lit area, carry a cell phone and let someone know where you are going and when you will be back.

He recommends meeting up at a local police department. The Roanoke City Police Department encourages people to use their front lobby as a safe meeting place.

The Bedford County Sheriff's Department even has reserved parking in their lot for buyers and sellers to meet.

Leamon said if the deal goes wrong, sometimes those cases can be the hardest to resolve.

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