The arrival of the holiday season leaves open numerous opportunities for scam artists. It is because this time of year is when we are most distracted and preoccupied. There is always somebody looking to separate you from your money and the last thing anyone needs in a tough economy such as this one is to lose their money and identity to a criminal. Below are a few types of scams you should be on the look out for.
Online Membership Programs – Scammers will use “rewards or discounts” pop-up windows under the guise of mainstream companies to get people to sign up with the scammer’s company and unknowingly give personal or financial information. No matter how great the offer or specials you should always be skeptical of “rewards or discounts” pop-ups. If you do click on one, make sure to read the fine print and subsequently check your credit card statement regularly.
Smishing: Authorities say these are automated text messages that ask for personal information. Be sure to always check the call-back number on Google to make sure it is legitimate.
Fake Charities – The holidays bring out the best in most people and our thoughts turn to helping out those less fortunate. That’s why you will find so many appeals for the neediest cases out there. Make sure the appeal is real. Call the main office of any non-profit organization that approaches you to make sure they actually have one. Go online and poke around. Check with Charity Navigator or the Office of the Attorney General in your state. Make sure you are actually making a difference, rather than just making some fraudster a little richer.
Small and Frequent Charges: In these cases, scammers will “test” victims by making small charges on their credit card to see if they are caught. If they go undetected, the scammer will later make larger and larger charges. To be safe, be sure to review your bank statement monthly, and call the company if you don’t recognize any charges.
Skimmers: Scammers will capture keypad and card information when consumers input their PIN number at ATMs, gas stations, restaurants, etc. They can then use this to extract money from victims’ accounts. To avoid becoming a victim, always select the “credit” option at retailers, gas stations, and restaurants, even if you are using a debit card. By selecting “credit,” you do not have to input your PIN and you are less liable for fraud. With ATMs, try to use those at your bank whenever possible.
Counterfeit Products: Scammers will sell counterfeit electronics with faulty wiring and fuses or dangerous chemicals. To be safe, verify that the product is real by checking the package for any misspellings or otherwise abnormal qualities, and check that the label is genuine at www.CSA-international.org.
We can’t forget about the most common scam which is done through email. If someone contacts you via email telling you that a relative or dear friend has left you some holiday money but that in order for you to receive it you must send them money in a gift card to get it. Tell them to go f*** themselves! It’s a scam!
One last thing to keep in mind, public hotspot Wi-Fi is never, ever private. Be mindful of this during use.
Remember to be safe. Be vigilant. Happy Holidays!