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Published: Nov 13, 2018

Watch Out for These Holiday Scams

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Watch Out for These Holiday Scams

The holidays are often a time when people are especially interested in finding good deals, or picking up some extra work. However, be sure to be extra vigilant when looking into potential opportunities to save, or make extra money, because they may be too good to be true.

 

Secret Shopper Scam

Since being a secret shopper can be considered an especially desirable side job during the holidays, this “too good to be true” offer is often susceptible to being a scam. 

This scam often begins with the scammer saying they will pay you exceptionally well for relatively easy work. As payment, the scammer will often send a cashier’s check, but later mention they accidentally sent it for the wrong amount. Then, they’ll say you can simply deposit the check and then wire the extra money back to them. Since wires are impossible to reverse, once the money has been sent via wire, it’s gone for good. Later, the cashier’s check that was deposited will bounce, and you’ll be responsible for paying for the wired funds, as well as any money from the cashier’s check that was spent.

 

Phishing Attempts

Phishing is a form of fraud where a scammer pretends to be a person or company that you know via email. They’ll often send you an email asking you to download an item, click on a link, or enter sensitive information like account numbers, usernames, or passwords. If you receive a suspicious email, think before you click! 

  1. 1)Ask yourself if this email makes sense. Is this person or company contacting you out of the blue? Does their request make sense?
  2. 2)Double check the email address. Sometimes scammers will use the letters “r” and “n” next to each other in place of “m” in an email address. Make sure the email address is actually legitimate.
  3. 3)Never download an attachment from a suspicious email. Even something as non-threatening as an email attachment of a puppy photo could contain a Trojan Virus or other malware.
  4. 4)Always hover over hyperlinks. You’ll be able to see the full web address near the bottom of your web browser so you can preview where a link may actually lead. Make sure the URL starts with “https” to ensure it is a secure website.

 

Targeted Ads

Targeted ads that may seem too good to be true are likely a scam. Search the name of the business, followed by the word “scam” before making a purchase, or ask a trusted source for a second opinion. Keep in mind that once you provide purchasing information to a company, it may be difficult to reobtain those funds since information was willingly provided. While you may actually receive a product, it may be faulty or it may arrive not as advertised. 

 

“Lightning” Deals

While this isn’t quite a scam, make sure any “deals” you encounter are actually deals. Be sure to check the actual price of the item verses the price listed on the website showcasing the deal. Sometimes you’ll find the original price was inflated to make it only appear you were getting a great deal on the product. 

 

Fabricated Charities

Since the holidays are often a time where people may feel more inclined to be philanthropic, unfortunately scammers will often try to take advantage of this good will. Before giving to any charity, do your research and make sure your donations will actually be going towards the cause in which you intended. 

 

Letters from Santa

Just like fraudulent charities, fake “Letters from Santa” or similar services have a tendency to appear around the holidays. Similar to the targeted ads mentioned earlier, these websites sometimes provide a service that is different from advertised, or they don’t provide a service at all. It is important to do your due diligence to make sure you’re not spending money on a non-existent service and to ensure your sensitive information doesn’t get into the hands of potential scammers. Before using an unfamiliar service, go to an outside source to find reviews, make sure the website is secure and the website has legitimate contact information in case you do need to contact the company. 

 

Phony Phone Calls

In addition to the fake “You’ve randomly won a free trip to Mexico” phone calls, you may also receive a call from an unrecognized number, claiming to be your utility company. They may threaten you, saying your bills are past due and they are going to turn off your heat or electricity if you don’t pay them immediately. These scammers may even threaten to involve law enforcement if you don’t act quickly. This scam works because scammers try to make people act hastily off their emotions. The more time you have to think, the more likely you are to think rationally and realize something is off, and scammers know this. Like most of these scams, it’s always helpful to go straight to the source if you feel something is not right.