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Beware of Holiday Scams

protect yourself from holiday fraud

Fraudsters take advantage of holiday cheer

It’s hard to put an exact dollar figure on how much consumers lose from scams, but, according to one report, the Federal Trade Commission estimated that there were nearly 49 million individual annual fraud transactions with an average loss of $60 -- totaling nearly $3 billion lost to fraud.

Fraudsters are working around the clock -- and all year -- to trick us into handing over our money. And, right now, they are gearing up for their busy season as they take advantage of our holiday cheer and giving spirit.

The Better Business Bureau says consumers need to be on the lookout for these popular holiday scams:

  • Fake websites: If you’re buying presents online, don’t click on any URL that comes up. Instead, go directly to the merchant’s website to make your purchases. Watch out for any URLs that include the names of a well-known brand, along with additional words. That’s your signal that something’s not right.
  • Fake shipping notices: If a shipping notification comes through your email with an attachment or link, don’t click. These could download malware onto your computer to steal your personal information. If you have a question about something you’ve ordered online, it’s always best to just contact the retailer directly.
  • Electronic greeting cards: They might look like a lovely holiday card, perhaps from a long-lost friend or loved one, but be careful. If it’s not clear who sent the card or if you are asked to share information before you can open it, it’s a scam.
  • Grandparents scam: Fraudsters often pull at our heartstrings, taking advantage of what means the most to us. For grandparents, that’s often their grandchildren. Con artists have been known to call a grandparent; claim to be their grandchild, who has been hurt or is in trouble; and ask for money. If you’re a grandparent and get a call like that, hang up and contact another family member to check the story out before you send any money.
  • Charity scams: Always check out a charity on your own -- including going to give.org -- before you ever write a check or share your credit card number. Better yet, select the charities that you want to support on your own and just say no to all unsolicited requests that come to you by phone, mail, email or text to ensure your money goes where it’s needed.
  • Holiday jobs: Malls and merchants across the country are adding to their staff so they can handle the busy holiday season. But not all of these holiday job offers are real. If you ever are asked to share personal information online or pay for a job opportunity, walk away. To find out who is hiring, go straight to the source -- the store or the company’s website.
  • Free gift cards: You might have seen pop-up ads or received emails that offer free gift cards. Be very wary. These are just opportunities to possibly steal your identity.

If it sounds good to be true; if it raises just one question in your mind; or if they ask for money or personal information up front, it’s likely a scam.

Never give personal information over the phone to somebody who calls out of the blue. Always go to the source when you get emails or phone calls from what sounds like a store you’ve shopped at or a charity you’ve supported. Don’t click on attachments in emails that you’re not expecting.

Those steps will help ensure your holiday season remains full of cheer -- not full of grief.

The team at CESI is committed to helping you make wise financial decisions and to helping you understand how to get out, and stay out of debt.  For a free debt analysis, contact us and find out how we can help

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