David C. Henley: Beware of Scams and Fraud During the Holiday Season
Our mantra should be “Holiday Wishes, not Holiday Cheats”. The scammers’ slogan is “It’s the season for the holiday scams” so we need to be extra vigilant and not let our guard down because the crooks and cheaters are out there to steal our money, identities and other personal information, says on guard Tim Johnston, chairman of BBB’s Sparks headquarters.
In an email Johnston sent to me last week, he said charity scams, identity theft, credit cards, gift cards and Facebook scams are growing in popularity this season. In the charity scam, a criminal approaches the victim and claims to represent a charity either online, by phone, text, mail, or even in person through someone you meet on the street. Many times the scammer will create an invented charity that you have never heard of or a legitimate and well-known charity. If the criminal seems arrogant and asks for an immediate donation, hang up the phone or leave. If you decide to make a charitable donation, verify that it exists before making the donation on Give.org, the BBB’s Wise Giving Alliance website. If you find the charity legitimate, donate your money directly through the organization’s official mailing address and not to the person who contacted you. If anyone wants the donation in cash, gift card, or wire transfer, don’t.
As for identity theft and Facebook scams, be aware that scammers take advantage of social networking sites to gain the trust of their victims by posing as a friend or a friend of a friend. Sometimes the “friend” claims to be raising money for a charity, a “good deal” on a product, or the opportunity to apply for a government grant. Make sure to contact “the friend” by email, phone, or text message to see if they actually sent it to you and if the fund request is genuine. In short, beware of online messages from people you don’t know, research the organization requesting money through the BBB’s BBB.orgScamTracker website, report any suspicious activity to Facebook to protect your real friends and family from a scam, and keep your accounts secure by locking your login and updating your security settings, advises the BBB.
Regarding the gift card scam, consumers should be wary if scammers ask them to buy a gift card from them. In these cases, the victim received a fraudulent email, text, or phone call from someone posing as an authority figure asking them to purchase multiple gift cards for personal, business, or charity. . For example, the victim receives a request to purchase gift cards for an alleged work-related function or as a gift for a special personal occasion.
Gift cards, if purchased by the victim, are then used to facilitate the purchase of goods or services that are not legitimate. Some of these incidents are also associated with additional requests for wire transfers. The advice given to potential gift card givers is not to provide funds for the cards to someone you don’t know. This advice, at first glance, seems like common sense. But thousands of people across the country who we believe would be sane and suspicious of sending money to strangers fall into the gift card scam trap every year. Many other victims do not report it to the authorities because they are embarrassed by their foolishness and lack of responsibility.
As for the credit card scam, the BBB recommends using credit cards rather than debit cards, as it is more likely that the money will be refunded in the event of fraudulent purchases. Credit card companies won’t insure your purchase if you use a debit card, so rule number one is to always use a credit card. Since it is the holiday season, try to get a purchasing credit card or a separate credit card with lower balances for your holiday purchases. This is the time of year when you need to be extra careful with your fees to make sure there aren’t any fraudulent fees, according to a warning from the BBB. It is also important to verify your credit card account immediately after making a purchase, as it is much easier to dispute a pending transaction than one that has already been completed. It is strongly recommended that you pay for gasoline at well-lit gas pumps and use ATMs also located in well-lit and busy areas, as areas that are darker and further away from employees are the most likely to be falsified, adds the BBB.
Take advantage of the holiday season. but remember that there are crooks and crooks out there to cheat you and steal your money. Be careful when making offers that sound too good to be true, because they usually are. Be wary when donating money to charities. Don’t give money to people you don’t know or don’t know. And be careful and ask questions every time you write a check, use a credit card, or pay online.
David C. Henley is editor emeritus of Lahontan Valley News and Fallon Eagle-Standard.