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How to Protect Yourself from Scams During the Holidays

How to Protect Yourself from Scams During the Holidays
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BY KITT WALSH

Both before and after the holidays, tis the season to get scammed. You are busy, tired, short of money and have little energy to pay as much attention to everything as usual. Unscrupulous people offering deals, jobs, credit cards or soliciting for fake charities come out of the woodwork when you are distracted by shopping (or returning gifts), visiting family and watching your bank account balance dip lower than usual. You are more vulnerable to crooks at this time, making you a better “mark.” Protect yourself from these common scams and make your life easier now and in the new year:

Delivery scams: Whether it is from “USPS” or “UPS” or “Fedex” this scam involves an email about the package you ordered being held up in delivery. You are asked to open the attachment and print it so your package can be redelivered. Don’t do it. The attachment contains a virus that will send all your information to the scammer. Keep track of packages you are expecting. Call the legitimate shipper if you think someone might have truly send you a package and renumber, never open any attachment from anyone or any business you don’t know.

Fake Charities: Every decent person would like to help those less fortunate. Unfortunately scammers prey on that noble impulse. Whether people appear at your door selling magazines for charity or call you to ask for a donation, ask for information in writing (scammers rarely provide it), research the charity online (also Google  “charity scams”) and check the FTC’s website http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/menus/consumer for a list of warning signs that the charity might be a fraud.

Really Inexpensive Electronics: Everyone loves a deal but sometimes things really are too good to be true. If a iPad or Kindle is being offered for $20, someone is only trying to get your credit card number. Also, buyer beware any such online auctions offering unbelievable deals. They are “unbelievable” for a reason and you have no way to track the shipper/seller.

Mystery Shopper Jobs: You may get an email or letter from some official sounding business offering you a job as a mystery shopper. For rating local restaurants, you could be paid up to $500 per week, the letter claims, and to prove the offer is legitimate, the envelope may include a big check to “cover expenses” and a number to call for “further details”. Those details will undoubtedly include your social security number. Don’t call. Walk that check to your friendly bank manager and you are likely to find the check is no good and, if you were to put it through your account, the sender would now have all your bank information. You are also likely to find you are not the only one in your neighborhood who got such a check. Google the company and you will find no record of the business because there is no business. 

Pop-up Ads and Spam Offers

No matter how big a “value” the goods being offered in unsolicited emails appear, nothing is worth giving personal information to a crook. Check out the vendor by doing your own online research and remember, no legit retailer sends unsolicited mail (they’d even lose their ability to send e-mails offering their products or services through such popular vendors as Constant Contact if they did.) Also, every time you put your info “out there” in cyberspace you are asking that you get a ton more spam mails sent to you.

There’s a million more ways for scammer to pick your pocket. Check out the Justice Department’s site for even more information.

 

 

 

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