Posted by Damon L. Chavez on Tuesday, December 13th, 2016 at 1:38pm.
December 13, 2016 / Homes.com, By Megan Wild ‘Tis the season! The holidays are a flurry of activity — gift buying, trimming trees, placing poinsettias, parties with family and friends, eggnog, candy canes, and evergreens. Unfortunately, the winter holiday season is also a time when scammers come out to play. Scammers are around all year, but the holidays are especially tempting. People spend money on gifts, both in malls and online, and it’s tempting for scammers to insert themselves between you, your money and the things you intend to purchase.
Observers are expecting a 12 percent rise in scammer activity this holiday season. For fraudulent activity online, the increase is much higher: 3 percent.
Avoid disaster this season with the five most common scams and how to avoid them.
One of this year’s most prevalent holiday scams is online sites with deep discounts, according to the FBI. We’re talking a fraction of the price you see on reputable sites. These sites are fake. They are set up by people all around the world. They may look extremely professional. In fact, they may even be designed to resemble well-known sites, but they’re after your personal information. Online buyers have to enter their name, home addresses, and credit or debit card information, making identity theft and unauthorized use of your credit or bank cards very easy.
Even if you don’t purchase, these sites can direct you to third-party sites or send you emails promising more deals. Once you’re on the sites or click, you become prey for malware installation.
Protect yourself: Don’t fall for discounts that are far below any other price. Yes, it’s tempting in the gift-giving season, but follow tried-and-true wisdom. If it looks too good to be true, it usually is. In addition, stick to sites you know.
This time of year, you want your home to look its best. Scammers know it. They may show up offering to shovel snow or put up your Christmas tree lights, saying that they’re local people from the neighborhood. If you agree, you’re presented with an exorbitant bill for the service.
It’s also a time of year when you may use your garage much more. You might move your tree and gifts from the car to your house through the garage, or you may store your holiday decorations there.
Garage doors, especially older ones, can become damaged with the extra use. Large objects falling against the door could damage it on either side. Dust or other objects on the sensors, or age, may cause the doors to go up and down erratically. A garage door lowering on a package or your car, could damage it.
Call reputable companies for home maintenance and repair. Ask for estimates from several. According to Customer Door and Gate, if you are quoted a price much lower or much higher than the average, it’s often a sign of a scam.
Don’t be afraid to ask for identification. Reputable companies give their employees identification to carry. If a maintenance person shows up in an unmarked van, be suspicious. Reputable companies have company vehicles.
You’ve heard of fake news? Well, sadly, another popular holiday scam is soliciting for fake charities. Some scammers set up entire online fake sites asking for your donation. You’ll be emailed about the dire need of the people the charity serves. Others set up fake sites that look like real charities.
Fake charities also exist in the real world. If someone approaches you outside of a mall, for example, they may be fake. Reputable charities like the Salvation Army are generally either in a mall or directly outside it. If someone comes to your door directly, it may be wise not to give to them. Most large charities don’t go door to door.
The goal of all fake charities is the same: They want your money. Online fake charities might also want your identity and credit card information. Be generous around the holidays, but protect yourself and check out the charity. Give to reputable ones with a long history. Be choosy about payment method. Checks and credit cards are better than cash, because they offer protection and the ability to trace.
Holiday danger on social media comes on two fronts. The first is friend requests or news that prompts you to open an attachment or respond. Once you do, malware or a virus is installed on your computer. The installations could be looking for information that allows identity theft or steals financial information.
This scam relies on people oversharing on social media over the holidays. If you’ve recently been to a party and posted about it, the email may use this as a trick. It could say you met at the party. It’s prudent to not click on friend requests if you don’t know the person.
The second type of social media scam involves unscrupulous people exploring social media sites to see who has out-of-town holiday plans. If you have upcoming plans and post about it, they’ll know. They could break into your house while you’re away. Don’t broadcast out-of-town holiday plans or list your address on your profiles. Post about your visit to Iowa or Paris once you come back.
Just like there are fake charities, there are also fake jobs.
It’s not related to gift-giving or traveling, but scammers rely on financial vulnerabilities during the holidays. Companies typically hire extra help in November and December. Many people have money on their minds this time of the year, and look for a second job to take in extra income.
If you are asked to pay any sort of sum toward getting a job, walk away. Scam job ads ask you to pay for a lead, training or kit. The kit ploy is especially popular with fake employers placing work-at-home ads. A reputable employer will never ask you to pay to apply or join the company. Even staffing agencies earn their money from the employers, not potential employees.
While avoiding these holiday scams, it’s a good idea to check bank and credit card statements frequently. Early detection of any fraud is key, and you should report all of these scams if you suspect it’s happened to you. The FBI advises you to report a scam first to your financial institution, and second to the police. Finally, report online fraud to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center to them track.
The holiday is an exciting and wonderful time. Make sure it stays that way by avoiding a scam!