Holiday Crime Spikes

Beware these 4 Holiday Scams

Many people don’t realize that the joyous holiday season is also the most dangerous time of the year. Despite the merriment, criminals find an increase of opportunities to commit crimes during the month of December. Why?

According to the Better Business Bureau, holidays present an irresistible chance for scammers to make outstanding amounts of money from unsuspecting gift-givers. Customers are looking for deals and they are also ready to spend money – the ideal scenario for scam artists. Here are some common Christmas season scams and what you can do to keep yourself safe:

1. Phisher e-mails

Similar to “fishing”, scammers can send out bogus emails asking for personal information while pretending to be a trustworthy source. It’s an efficient way for hackers to get ahold of your name, address, or even bank information.

Don’t bite the hook:

Messages from shipping companies like UPS or FedEx that ask for personal information in order to track a package should be ignored. Don’t click on unsolicited emails or links that could originate from a malicious source.

Keep an eye out for emails that contain typos or come from suspicious email addresses. Also keep in mind that anyone can create an email and send it to you. It isn’t hard for serious hackers to create emails that look identical to legitimate emails from reliable companies.

2. $0 gift cards

Another common scam to avoid is the gift card scam. 80% of people are expected to purchase at least one gift card this season to give as a gift. Lots of times, thieves will take note of the phone numbers on the back as well as the PIN numbers for each card. They will call the 1-800 to see when the card has been purchased and begin using it, sometimes before you even have a chance to give it as a gift.

Outsmart the gift-card scammers:

Never buy a gift card that has the security or PIN number scratched or visible. Buy gift cards that have been kept behind counters or in packaging. Never purchase a gift card from sites like craigslist or eBay. Lots of scammers will use these types of second hand sites claiming to sell gift cards, when in reality they can simply pocket your cash and spend the gift card for themselves.

3. Counterfeit retailer websites

Similar to the “phishing emails”, scammers can be really quite good at creating fake websites that claim to sell discounted products. They’ll take your credit card information and ultimately your money – without ever sending you the product you ordered. Similarly, there are retailers out there who will list products that sounds great, but once you receive them in the mail, you find that they are very cheaply made or don’t live up to your expectations.

Verify the validity of sketchy online retailers:

Use your intuition when buying things online. Does it seem like a deal that is too good to be true? Did you find the site in random web search or have you shopped at their brick and mortar store before? Even worse, did the site come to you in a phishing email? Only use sites that you have previous experience with – and be sure that the URL is correct! Site with URL’s that start with “https:” rather than “http:” are considered to be safe for entering your personal information. Also use tools like scamadviser.com to see how they rank in terms of scam potential. However, even websites that rate other websites can seldom be fully trusted. A consumer’s best option is to check the validity of the business with the Better Business Bureau.

3. Puppy breeder scams

Christmas is one of the most popular times for dog owners to adopt their new puppies. You can spend hours online searching for the perfect dog breeder, but there is never a guarantee that if the dog is purchased online – that it will arrive at your door. Another common trick is for scammers to actually breed dogs knowing that the Christmas season is coming. They’ll promise you a great puppy with all of these credentials; however they aren’t a knowledgeable breeder who practices safe breeding regulations.

Adopt a pet:

About 1.2 million dogs are euthanized each year. The best thing you can do – for yourself and your community – is to visit a local shelter first to see if you can find a new furry friend in need of a home. Otherwise, use trusted and local breeders that come highly recommended from friends or that you have adopted from before.

4. Classic scams

From purse snatching to house break-ins, the classic crimes that we know to be aware of are also at an increase during the holiday season. Burglars often break into homes during the day because they know that families are at work or school, out shopping, or away visiting family. It is also common for theft to occur in mall parking lots where burglars can see which cars are filled with shopping bags. They know you’ll be caught up for hours inside the mall – and they happily take advantage. According to the Florida State Annual Crime Clock: during the 2013 year, one burglary occurred every 3 minutes.

Always be (or at least appear to be) aware of your surroundings:

Avoid being mugged at the mall simply by being aware of your surroundings. Notice suspicious behavior and exercise caution when you are setting down your shopping bags. Make it look like your home is occupied during the day by leaving a television on. Remove your shopping bags from your vehicle and conceal expensive purchases under seats or in the glove compartment.

Safety is a commodity, luckily, it’s free and available to anyone who is willing to keep an eye open for suspicious activity and to those who choose not to be victims. Stay safe, stay aware, and happy Holidays to our readers.

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