Watch Out for Holiday Scams

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christmas shoppingDuring the holiday season, which pretty much runs from Thanksgiving until New Years Day, there are a number of scams set up. These scams are designed to take advantage of your desire to find good deals, and do it quickly. Whether you are buying something before Christmas, or looking into after-Christmas sales, or just trying to get a jump start on the New Year, it’s a good idea to be on the alert for scams.

Charity Scams

Phone calls this time of year are common, coming from people who claim to represent charities. In some cases, those calling pretend to be from a known charity — even though they’re not. Others call with made up charities. In either case, the result is the same. You give your credit card number out over the phone, to make a donation. The scammer might take money one time, or you might find your information is used in identity theft scams.

In order to avoid such scams, tell the caller that you will donate later, or that you will make a donation through more official channels. I get around this by telling callers that I don’t make donations to charities over the phone. For the most part, I give locally, though. That way, I know exactly where the money is going, and can see what it is used for.

Online Shopping Scams

I do most of my Christmas shopping online, and this is something that I have to watch out for. It’s increasingly easy to set up a professional looking web site that can fool just about anyone. The site might even include logos from companies that provide security, so that you think that you are on a legitimate site.

However, you might buy something and never receive it. Even worse, but scammers now have your credit card information and can sell it to identity thieves. Watch out for prices that seem too good to be true, and be on the alert for fake ads that download malware to your computer. Instead of going to a new site that promises even lower prices that you might expect, stick with sites you are familiar with.

Parcel Scams

Interestingly, one of the recent news items has been of people waiting for parcel delivery to homes — and then swooping in and stealing the packages right from the doorstep. If you are expecting packages, it is a good idea to obtain a tracking number from the sender, so that you know roughly when it will be delivered. Also, when sending packages, make sure to send a tracking number to the recipient.

Also, be on the look out for scams involving cards waiting for you at the door. You might be told that there is a package waiting for you. However, when you call, you instead end up being charged a huge amount of money for the call — and you might be asked for personal information for “identification.” Watch out for these scams, and consider checking out the phone number or purported company first. In most cases, you receive these cards from the USPS, UPS, DHL and FedEx. Be suspicious of other “companies” leaving cards.

Bottom Line

During the holidays — and indeed all year — you are at risk for scams. Many of these scams are simple yet sophisticated; it’s possible for even the most savvy to be fooled. Carefully evaluate the situation, and don’t let the hectic situation you might be in dictate rushing into a decisions.

(Photo: slowburn)

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