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Consumer and Holiday Scams Are Going Up – Ways to Be Wise

Holiday scams are on the rise, so it’s up to consumers to beware. One latest scam involves an innocent party being contacted (by a scammer) and required to confirm a purchase that they did not make. The scammer is depending upon the innocent party to panic and reply and to give away “typically guarded information,” such as passwords, credit card numbers, bank account information, or one’s social security number. Due to the high numbers of scams, the potential of becoming a victim is great. So be on guard and do not panic or reply.

In one scam example, an innocent party receives an email from a scammer pretending to represent a well-known company (in this case Norton). The email falsely states that a subscription has been renewed and that $349.99 has been deducted from a linked card. They provide an invoice number and brief product description. HOLD ON – A few clues clearly indicate that the email is illegitimate. First, the sender’s email address is unfamiliar and not directly from the company. That is a clear sign of a scam. Second, the sender states that to cancel your subscription, you need to call a “refund department” (an 888-scammer number provided). Companies do not typically provide a specific number designated solely for “refunds.” Another sign of a scam. Third the letter instructs the receiver to act immediately. (A pressure tactic commonly used by scammers.) Yet another sign. Fourth, look for typos that appear in “fake” emails. In this case, the word license is misspelled, and the punctuation is off with odd spacing and missing/strangely placed punctuation marks. More evidence of a scam. Fifth, upon safely reverse searching the number, it appears that the phone number provided is marked UNSAFE. Yes, clearly a scam.

Holiday-related scams are up now, too. Per the FBI, the two most prevalent of these holiday scams are non-delivery and non-payment crimes. In a non-delivery scam, a buyer pays for goods or services they find online, but those items are never received. Conversely, a non-payment scam involves goods or services being shipped, but the seller is never paid. Fraud involving gift cards are also on the rise. In this scam, generally a caller asks a potential victim to purchase gift cards and then provide the card numbers and PIN on the back of the card. This allows the scammer to gain access to the gift card money. Once they know the numbers, you will lose your money. If you believe a scammer is on the phone, know that it is best to not engage with them. Simply hang up rather than be tricked into divulging any information.

Additionally, scammers may send emails aimed at shoppers and entice them to click on links. Do not click on links sent to you to confirm purchases. Also do not click on links intended to direct you to another likely fraudulent website. Likewise, do not download attachments that may contain malware (intrusive software specifically designed to disrupt, damage, or gain unauthorized access to computer systems.) Also avoid clicking on coupon offers that are sent to you for the same reason. To practice online safety, simply do not open unfamiliar emails. Another thing scammers like to do is trick people into providing their passwords over the phone, by text, or via email. If you are unsure of the legitimacy of a message, do not respond to it. Never call back numbers provided in unsolicited emails or texts. Rather, contact the institution directly using phone numbers from their website or from your monthly statements. And always regularly review personal account statements to ensure that all charges are accurate.

Unfortunately, criminals continually seek new ways to find victims. However, consumer smarts can go a long way to avoid their traps. Some scam emails may look legitimate or convincing, so it’s important to stay one step ahead of scammers. If you receive suspicious or questionable communications, delete it rather than reply. If you believe you’ve been a victim of fraud, promptly alert your financial institution and take the necessary steps to report and correct it. If necessary, contact one of the three major credit (Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion) bureaus to discuss placing a fraud account on your file. As always, report suspicious contacts to the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov.


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