It is officially the season of giving as people search for the perfect gift or for a way to help others in need. But it is also a time when thieves are looking to take advantage of others' generosity.
Sometimes it can be hard to tell if a certain deal really is too good to be true or if a non-profit is legitimate. The BBB has a new online database that is helping consumers keep track of scams in their area.
"Always at this time of year we have other people, unfortunately, trying to take advantage of the good guys," says Jim Winsett with BBB Chattanooga.
Whether you are looking for a Black Friday bargain or the best way to donate your money, the BBB is out to help consumers stay up to date with the latest scams.
"It's a product called scam tracker," says Winsett.
The website is pretty easy to use. You go to BBB.org/scamtracker. There is a place on there where you can click to report a scam. There is also a search box where you can search for scams. And there is also a 'heat map' where you can zoom in to see what scams are happening in your neighborhood.
"When new information is put there, it gives us an opportunity to investigate that," says Winsett.
Jim Winsett, president of BBB Chattanooga, says for shoppers there a few things to keep in mind, especially if you're making online purchases.
Also, think twice before swiping that card.
"Use a credit card versus a debit card," says Winsett.
With credit cards there is more protection. You are only liable for up to $50 of fraudulent use.
When it comes to charitable giving, a recent AARP survey found 66 percent of Tennesseans never asked or found out where their money was going when donating to a charity or fundraiser.
All professional fundraisers must be registered with the state. To verify the legitimacy of a charity, you can contact the Tennessee Secretary of State's office.
"Become an educated consumer. Do your homework. Do your due diligence," says Winsett.
One more tip to keep in mind as the shopping season gets underway. It was found that nearly half of all holiday shoppers are not aware most package delivery companies are not responsible for stolen packages. Experts recommend you require a package delivery sign off.