The holiday season can translate to frenetic gift-buying and even a focus on earning some extra cash.
It’s also the time consumers may let their guard down and become victims of scams, experts said.
“During the holidays, we’re all in a rush and we just don’t have the normal skepticism that we use at other times of the year,” FBI spokeswoman Michelle Lee said.
Miguel Segura, BBB regional director, agreed, saying, “At this time of year, scammers know a lot of folks are online, and they are vulnerable.”
Prevalent scams to watch out for are “lookalike” websites. They typically promise cut-rate prices, especially on popular products. The websites look legitimate, but aren’t, Segura said.
To avoid buying from a lookalike site, consumers should check the Web address to make sure the name matches and that it begins with “https.” The “s” denotes a secure website.
The FBI’s Lee warned of work-from-home scams. “They promise a very good rate of pay, maybe $25 an hour. But there is no job and no paycheck, and in most cases these (scams) will steal your identity or charge you a fee.”
A newer scam takes advantage of people who take selfies showing off a hot concert ticket. If the ticket’s bar code is visible, criminals fabricate the bar code on a fake ticket and sell it.
“We’ve seen many instances where the ticket is resold and accepted as authentic, even here in San Antonio,” Lee said.
Scammers also may send an email or ad promising a cut-rate price for an item in an effort to obtain credit card or personal information. “If an item you’re looking for is significantly reduced in price, that should be a red flag,” the BBB’s Segura said.
In addition, the BBB advises consumers to beware of fake shipping notifications that could have attachments or links that download malware on a buyer’s computer to steal passwords and personal information.
Scam artists often send mass emails that may advertise very low prices on items, say there’s a problem with a person’s account or say a package has been delayed in shipping and seek a consumer’s credit card information, a USAA official said.
At USAA, emails sent directly to members have security features that show the member’s name and the last four digits of his or her member number.
Fraudulent gift cards are another scam. The city’s Human Services Department advises consumers to buy gift cards from the issuing store itself and check for any signs of tampering, such as an exposed PIN. Consumers should keep receipts to track the balance on the card until it is exhausted.
Consumer should beware, too, of fake charities. The Human Services Department suggests that potential donors ask for detailed information about the charity, including its name, address and telephone number. They then should look up the number of the organization independently and call the charity directly before donating.
Some financial institutions, including Chase, offer fraud monitoring tools and will text or email card holders to alert them of unusual card activity.
“If fraud is suspected or your card is stolen, a good provider will ship a new card to you immediately — even if you’re traveling abroad,” Pam Codispoti, president of Chase Consumer Branded Cards, said in an email statement.
“By working hand-in-hand with your bank or credit card company, you can reduce the chance of being victimized during the holiday shopping frenzy — and less impacted should a breach occur,” Codispoti said.
The elderly and their families may need to pay particular attention to potential scams. Some criminals prey on seniors because they often have more assets and may be more willing to trust others. Seniors 60 and older can learn how to protect themselves by joining one of the city’s senior centers to attend fraud and scams prevention classes.
Have a great holiday season and stay safe out there…
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