It is holiday time again, and people are preparing to show their appreciation for loved ones by showering them with gifts….. Note my Festive Cheer! As shoppers prepare to fight the crowds and web sites in the search for better gifts, so are con men preparing to trick, fleece, scam people out into buying shoddy merchandise or even donating money for nothing at all.
I will say that most people i know are rather savy in their purchases now both online and in the real world, but a small reminder may help you survive whilst in that Christmas frenzy (or is that just my wife ?)
Christmas Cons, Scam Alert
Dangerous and Counterfeit Gifts
Knockoff products and products that don’t comply with safety regulations are a common problem, but they become even more prevalent during the holidays. Knockoffs are made to look like expensive clothing or jewellery and passed off as the real thing. You might find a ‘Nolex’ instead of a ‘Rolex’ watch, or a ‘Guchi’ instead of a ‘Gucci’ handbag. The price will be incredible for a Rolex watch or Gucci bag – but what you pay for is a knock-off, not a genuine designer product.
Perhaps worse than counterfeit products are products that do not comply with safety standards. It might be cheap electronics that can short out and shock users or start fires or toys painted with lead paint or other harmful substances. As much as possible know where the gifts you buy come from to help ensure they are compliant and safe.
Fake charities are popular scams anytime there is a disaster, but they are also popular during the holidays, when people are feeling generous and giving. If you want to give to charity, research and choose one, then contact them. Do not give your financial information out to anyone who calls claiming to be from a well known (or not so well known) charity.
The Air Ambulance has issued a warning that Scammers are delivering fake charity clothing bags door to door. If in doubt just call the charity to check if it is a genuine bag.
Seasonal Travel and Stranded Friends
Bogus travel deals and phony cruise prizes trick you into providing financial information to scammers. They use it to empty bank accounts … ho ho ho. Another type of travel scam that is more successful than it should be is the stranded friend/relative con. A text or email will arrive that claims to be a friend or relative stranded a long way from home, usually because their money got stolen. In most cases it really should not be hard to prove the whether the sender really is who they claim to be. Simply calling the supposed victim `may be all it takes to reveal the scam.
But you would be very surprised at the amount of people that fall for this chestnut.
Holiday Gift Specials and Giveaways
You are doing your holiday shopping and suddenly a window pops up offering the latest game console or popular game at a fraction of its normal price. You go to see what your friends are doing on Facebook and you see an ad offering the same thing. The ads probably are not legitimate. They are much more likely to be scams to get you to enter your credit card or banking information. Again, once the information is in their hands, the scammers make off with your money.
If you are interested in the product but want to make sure, close the window and search online for the product, enetering the main website.
Social Trolling for Targets
A frequently talked about, yet frequently ignored, risk of the holidays is not so much a scam as it is crafty intelligence gathering. Criminals troll social media sites for posts giving details about planned or current travel. Often they send large numbers of friend requests to gain access to travel information from people who are careful about privacy settings, but careless about friend requests. Knowing when and how long the owners will be away, the thief breaks in and takes everything of value. This has even happened to people who only left to go to a movie. Do not post your travel plans on social media, or anywhere else online.
Bogus Gift Card Offers
A call or an email will offer a free gift card if you just pay shipping. Provide your credit card information and the gift card will never arrive, but the scammer gets a nice gift. Another trick that involves more risk for the crook is to reveal the code on a gift card, wait for someone to purchase it, then use the code to order things online. The gift card might be worthless before it even makes it home.
These are only a few of the scams to be aware of this holiday season. None of them are impossible to avoid. Keep your eyes open, pay attention to the details, and never give financial information out unless you know who you are dealing with and you can protect yourself from most scammers.