21Investigates: Scam Tracker -- Virtual Holiday Shopping Fairs

Published: Nov. 10, 2023 at 9:51 AM EST
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) - The holiday season is almost here. While most of us see it as the season of giving, scammers see it as the season of taking.

If you decide to shop online, you may find yourself participating in a Virtual Holiday Shopping Fair, which became popular during the COVID-19 pandemic. There are pros and cons. One of the positives is that it’s convenient for shoppers, but a negative is they’re also convenient for con artists.

What happens is the scammer will pretend to be a business, with a booth inside the fair. Their advertisement will tell you that you have to pay for a ticket to shop from their business. There may even be a subtle change where the scammer claims paid tickets are now required, even though they haven’t been in the past. They could also install malware on your computer.

Better Business Bureau of Northern Indiana president Rick Walz says we should expect the number of shopping scams to surge these next few weeks.

“Between now and even mid-December, you’re going to see a lot of these things,” Walz said. “These shopping scams are really going to increase in intensity between now and Christmas.

The BBB recommends you head directly to the event’s website to see if a ticket is actually required. If the event is unfamiliar, do some research on the host and the listed vendors in advance. Also, while virtually browsing from booth to booth, make sure you only click on the links provided.

Experts also recommend that when you pay for items, use your credit card and not your debit card. If there’s ever a problem, dealing with credit card companies tends to be easier.

If you get scammed, here are some resources:

Do you have a scam you want us to look into? Reach out to 21Alive’s Tylor Brummett. You can send a message on Facebook or send an email to tylor.brummett@gray.tv.