By Olya Fessard NOV 2012
Thieves and scammers celebrate the season by taking advantage of us who don’t have time to give things the usual scrutiny.
As we get nearer the holidays, it’s no wonder that most of us begin to feel harried and distracted. But don’t take leave of your senses. Thieves and scammers celebrate the season by taking advantage of people who don’t have time to give things the usual
scrutiny. Here are some top holiday ripoffs and advice on how to avoid them from the Better Business Bureau.
Travel trip-ups. Vacation scams cost consumers over $10 billion each year. Watch out for unexpected hotel and flight “confirmation” or “cancellation” notices, which trick consumers into clicking unsafe links to “stop” bogus reservations.
Don’t broadcast your whereabouts. When shopping or vacationing, don’t become a
target for theft. Guard belongings, be observant and pack lightly. Avoid broadcasting your travel plans on social networks—burglars lurk there too.
Charitable misgivings. The holidays are a time of giving, and that creates an opportunity for scammers to solicit donations to line their own pockets. Beware of solicitations from charities that don’t necessarily deliver on their promises or are ill-equipped to carry through on their plans. Resist demands for on-the-spot donations. Do give but with care. Here are some donation don’ts:
- Don’t give cash. Legitimate charities will take a check.
- Don’t give credit card, bank account, or personal info. Initiate calls to your chosen charity.
- Traditional frauds have gone electronic in recent years giving con artists easy access to thousands of potential victims.
- Expect specific information. ALWAYS ask what kind of relief this organization is going to provide and what percentage of their donations and grants actually go to the needy. Be skeptical of solicitors who won’t answer basic donation questions.
- Established and reputable charities register with the Internal Revenue Service. You can search for specific non-profit organizations on the IRS website, irs.gov or at BlueStar.com.
- Beware of newly-formed organizations. You may have to rely on your personal relationship to know if you can trust them.
- Report abuses to the nearest Better Business Bureau and the State Attorney General’s office. Both are listed in local telephone directories. You can also report abuses to the National Fraud Information Center at (800)876-7060.
- Gift cards that take. Avoid purchasing gift cards from disreputable third parties and examine them closely for terms, restrictions, fees and expiration dates. Use any cards you receive early as they may become non-redeemable if retailers go out of business.
- A ‘free offer’ may cost you. Dodge deceptive deals and “free” offers on desirable toys, jewelry, and electronics in auctions, classified ad sites, social media posts, pop-up ads, online coupons, sweepstakes, and surveys.
- Don’t take credit you don’t deserve. During the big spending season, discard ads, shred offers for high-interest credit cards, and avoid costly layaway programs and payday loan traps.
- Job offers that don’t work. You may want to earn a little extra money but abstain from limited-time job offers for high-paying mystery shopping gigs and online work-at-home tasks. “Employers” may steal data from applications, fail to send start-up materials, or induce paycheck money transfer schemes.
- Don’t let Santa invade your privacy. There are more than 60 domain names registered in the name of Santa Claus. Steer away if a Santa website requests unnecessary personal data, doesn’t abide by advertising laws, or fails to disclose contact details and privacy policies.
- Dodgy downloads. Dangers may be hiding in holiday-themed articles, music, screensavers, and other downloads. Before surfing the Web, social media sites or reading your holiday e-mails, update anti-virus protection and check firewalls. Avoid shopping or banking online on unsecured Wi-Fi networks at public places, like airports and hotels.
- Return to sender. Do not click links or attachments in e-cards and other holiday greetings from unfamiliar senders. Ensure your spam filters are set even if it seems to be from someone you know.
- Don’t bank on it. Disregard sudden e-mails or text messages about issues with your bank account. Instead, contact your bank or financial institution directly to verify.
- Special deliveries. Don’t accept notices about delivery delays or confirmations on unordered packages; phishers often pose as well-known retailers or shipping companies to gain false credibility—and information.#