KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — It’s the holiday season and many of you may be searching online and on social media for the perfect gift. You also may get a text message from a friend about that perfect gift, but the message may not really be from your friend.

Several years ago, WATE first reported how hackers steal a photo and claim to be one of your friends on Facebook offering an amazing holiday bargain. Now, they are sending text messages, again claiming to be one of your friends telling you about a great holiday sale.

Recently, Better Business Bureau of Greater East Tennessee president Tony Binkley received a text about some deals for ON shoes. The sender claims to be a friend.

“He knows I like orange because I’m a UT fan. He said, hey these are you. Go get you some shoes, these are some of the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn,” said Binkley.

The great deal on an Orange Sea shoe piqued his interest.

“Here they are on sale. They are normally a hundred and forty. But they’re marked down to $59.95. If you buy two pairs you get 30 dollars off for the second pair. You can get two for 90 bucks,” said Binkley. “It’s a great bargain.”

However, he wanted to know more information about the website.

“One of the first things I went to look for was the contact information to make sure they had an address, a phone number, hopefully, an email address as well. There is none of that,” said Binkley.

The one-page contact form was short of any pertinent information you would want to know before purchasing any of these shoes.

“The next thing I want to turn is to look at the returns and refund policy. The first line says this: ‘If you to cancel the order and get refund. You should contact us before the item is dispatched.’ I don’t need to read anymore, the grammar is so bad. There is no way to contact them and the price is so good. This can’t be true. It’s a fake site,” said Binkley.

Here are some ways to spot a fake website:

  • Look for poor spelling and design issues.
  • Check the domain name closely.
  • Look for a padlock symbol.
  • Be wary of deals that seem too good to be true.

“We all shop online for things like that for Christmas presents, our own gifts, whatever it may be. We are all looking for a good deal. These things are too good to be true,” said Binkley. “They want your credit card information or your banking information so they can get more money out of you.”

While many people will continue visiting stores this holiday, many more will shop online that’s where the scammers lurk.

“This is their gold mine right now. They know we are shopping online more than ever, especially after COVID. They know this is the time of the year people are doing their shopping. They are going to try to get as much money out of people as they can in a short amount of time,” said Binkley.

Another thing to be aware of during the holiday season is fake charitable requests. The Salvation Army and its Bell Ringers represent over 120 years of one of the most legitimate charitable drives in the country and scammers try and imitate their looks to trap their victims.

“Absolutely. You have to know these charities. If you want your money to do what you want it to do, which is help others, don’t give it away to a scammer. Check these charities out,” said Binkley.

One-third of all charitable giving is done in December. That means more sham charities are out there exploiting your goodwill by way of fake websites and pushy telemarketers. An AARP poll found 38% of respondents said they’ve received a dubious donation request. Also, be especially wary if a company asks you to update your password or account information.

To avoid being scammed, look up the company’s phone number on your own and call the company. Know who you’re buying from or selling to.