CHARLOTTE, NC — Ah, the joy of the holidays. From gift card scams to "porch pirates" swiping packages off your doorstep, scam artists crank into high gear during the holiday season. Now that the holiday season has officially arrived, authorities are warning local residents to beware of scams and deceptive advertising while shopping at stores or online this year.
Here’s a list of nine scams from the Better Business Bureau and law enforcement agencies to be on the lookout for as you hit the malls, shop online or answer solicitations from charities.
Bogus Charities: The holidays prompt us to donate to charities, but scam artists take advantage of this by sending emails for fake charities or sharing viral promos. Before donating, do your homework. Groups such as the Better Business Bureau, Charity Watch and even the Internal Revenue Service have tips to safely donate to charities.
Any charity that solicits money in North Carolina or intends to hire a person or business to solicit contributions in the state, must first obtain a license from the North Carolina Secretary of State Charities Division. North Carolinians can use the Secretary of State website to confirm if a charity is authorized to raise money in the state.
Examples of "red flags" that should help you question whether a charity is legitimate include:
Did the organization refuse to send you written material or financial information? Did the solicitor offer to send a person to collect your contribution? Did the charity send you an invoice or statement that indicates a payment due for a contribution you never pledged? Does the organization’s name and logo closely resemble another charity with a similar purpose?
If you think you’ve been the victim of a scam charity, call 410-260-3879 or 800-825-4510.
Fake shipping notifications: These can have attachments or links to sites that will download malware on your computer to steal your identity and your passwords. Don’t be fooled by a holiday phishing scam.
E-cards: Electronic holiday cards can be used to steal your data. Two red flags to watch out for are: the sender’s name is not apparent; you are required to share additional information to get the card.
Letters from Santa: Several trusted companies offer personalized letters from Santa, but scammers mimic them to get personal information from unsuspecting parents. Check with bbb.org to find out which ones are legitimate.
Temporary holiday jobs: Retailers and delivery services need extra help at the holidays, but beware of offers that require you to share personal information online or pay for a job lead. Apply in person or go to retailers’ main websites to find out who is hiring.
Unusual forms of payment: Be wary of anyone who asks you to pay for holiday purchases using prepaid debit cards, gift cards, wire transfers, third parties, etc. These payments cannot be traced and cannot be undone. Use a credit card on a secure website; look for https in the address (the extra "s" is for "secure") and the lock symbol.
Social media gift exchange: It sounds like a great deal; buy one gift and get 36 in return. But it’s aa variation on a pyramid scheme and it’s illegal, says the BBB.
Deceptive Advertising: Just like fake websites, fake apps are built at this time of year to target people who prefer shopping from their phones. Be especially wary of phone shopping apps; even those marked with an Amazon or Ebay logo could be fake. And, dangerous links, phony contests on social media, and bogus gift cards allow scammers to steal your personal information, says McAfee.com. Watch out for URLs that use the names of well-known brands along with extra words.
Gift Card Scams: The popular gifts can be an opportunity for thieves, who copy the numbers off cards in a store, then check online or call the 1-800 number to see if the card is activated. Once a card is active, the thieves spend its contents online, and the rightful card holder has no money, says the Better Business Bureau. And never buy discounted gift cards sold online; scammers will keep your cash, and use the gift cards.
And experts off some precautions to thwart thieves.
Promotional Emails: The International Business Times says to treat all promotional emails that aren’t coming from a trusted retailer as dangerous material. Even if you open the email, do not click on any links inside. Use a Credit Card: Using a credit card is safer than swiping your debit card when shopping. Credit cards have more security features than debit cards and credit companies are more willing to replace your stolen money than most banks, according to IBT. Package Theft: The internet is full of videos of thieves stealing packages left by delivery services on doorsteps. Police believe the criminals follow delivery trucks into neighborhoods, say Annapolis Police. To thwart thieves, require a signature for all packages. If nobody will be home to accept a delivery, have the package held at the nearest service location for you to pick it up.
Watch Now: 9 Holiday Scams To Watch Out For
Image Via Shutterstock
By Deb Belt, Patch National Staff