Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Holiday Scams and How to Prevent Them

Common Holiday Scams and How You Can Prevent Them’
For every family looking to enjoy a safe and exciting holiday season, there awaits a thief or criminal looking to take advantage of holiday goers. To prevent a Scrooge from harming your family and identity, take the following common holiday scams into consideration.

Gift Cards
Gift cards often are an excellent way to ensure that your loved one will receive something they love and will use. They are also one of the most common scams during the holiday season. Scammers take advantage of holiday shoppers by either scanning the magnetic strip on the card or by counterfeiting cards. To avoid this problem, consider purchasing cards from the customer service desk, and always ask for the card to be scanned if it is pre-loaded.

Delivery Targets
The holidays are an exceptionally busy time for delivery services. Many thieves take advantage of this and develop multiple scams involving delivery companies. One such scam involves leaving a notice at your door that states you missed a package and that you must call and arrange for delivery of the package. Once you call, the scammer asks for your personal and private information such as your PIN or your social security number. Call the postal office or delivery carrier to ensure if your expected package has arrived. Your local postal office, UPS, or FedEx does not require such personal information to deliver your package. Be wary of this very common scam.

Phishing Scams
Checking your email during the holiday season most likely means you are bombarded with emails on discounted merchandises, final holiday sales, coupons, and much more. While many of these emails may save you a ton in your holiday budget, be wary of emails and links that hold malicious malware and viruses. Identity theft would be a rather unwanted holiday present. Unfortunately, there is no surefire way to guarantee that an email is 100% safe, so if you are tempted by a link or offer, travel to the website itself to see whether the email was indeed legitimate.

Facebook and Grandparent Scams
Facebook hacks and grandparent scams are done year-round, but are even more prevalent during the holiday season. The scams often start with a social media account posting or a phone call claiming to be a loved one who claims to be in trouble and in need of some money. Often hackers will obtain personal information in the hopes of making the scam seem more authentic. To prevent this if you have a loved one traveling, consider setting up a secret code word or registering with the State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program at https://step.state.gov/step/ to help with communication in emergencies.

Old Scams are Still Common for a Reason
Warning: Not all holiday scams happen electronically. Thieves can still act as door to door salesmen casing homes or criminals who tail delivery services and are prepared to snatch your package up when you are not home. During the holidays, people are generally in high and giving spirits. Unfortunately, scammers are more than prepared to take advantage of this. Fake charities often spring up looking for people to trick into donating. To ensure whether or not a charity is legitimate, check out www.charitynavigator.org.

Holiday scams occur nearly every year and it may be likely that you or your loved one may be a victim of a scam. To help ensure you are not, use common sense and read the fine print before giving your personal information away. Research and double check before each and every purchase. Or consider setting up a cash only policy in your household instead of a debit or credit card during the holiday seasons. Consider all these tips to have a safe and exciting holiday season.

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