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The holidays are a time of generosity and giving.

Sadly, Christmas is also a time for con games and taking.

The Better Business Bureau has issued a new warning, advising consumers to beware of new tricks to scam online shoppers.

The BBB Scam Tracker has found that con artists are exploiting a PayPal policy and deceiving online shoppers into paying for goods that don't exist, according to a BBB statement issued this week.

Here's how it works, according to BBB:

You are shopping online and find a site with amazing deals, often brand-name goods at a significant discount. The website and the products look legitimate, so you decide to take a chance and make a purchase.

The site instructs you to pay through PayPal, which should provide extra security.

After checkout, you get a confirmation email that contains a tracking number from UPS, FedEx or another shipping service. After a few days, you log onto the site and see that your package has been delivered but no box ever arrived. You call the shipping company, and they confirm that the package was delivered … but to the wrong address.

When you try correcting the mistake, you find that the ecommerce site is either unresponsive or unhelpful. In some cases, the site doesn't provide contact information; in others, they simply don't respond to your emails or calls.

Some scam victims report filing a claim with PayPal because their protection promise says you can open a dispute if your order never arrives. But because the scammer technically shipped the package and the tracking number marked it as delivered, PayPal rejected the claims, according to the BBB.

One consumer reported to BBB Scam Tracker: "PayPal denied my claim because the seller showed the tracking number as being delivered. I even had UPS send PayPal the proof that I didn't receive my package, but all PayPal required is a tracking number loaded and shows delivered."

To avoid this scam, the BBB advises following these three tips:

• Before paying, know your rights and responsibilities. In everything from check-cashing scams to cons involving new peer-to-peer payment systems, scammers often take advantage of what consumers don't know when it comes to processing payments. Don't make a purchase from a shady seller assuming you'll be protected no matter what.

• Before buying online, confirm the site has real contact information. Make sure the seller has a working phone number and address on the website, so you can contact them in case of problems.

• If the price seems too good to be true, there's probably something wrong. Be wary if the item is selling for significantly lower than what you've seen elsewhere.

The BBB claims many online purchase scams use similar tactics. See BBB.org/ShoppingOnline for more advice.

If you've been targeted by this scam, help others avoid the same problem by reporting your experience at BBB.org/ScamTracker.

We urge readers to use caution when making any purchases online. A little caution may be the difference between a Merry Christmas and a run-in with the Grinch.

-- Valdosta (Ga.) Daily Times

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