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How to Avoid Scams This Holiday Season
Don't FALL for this!
At any holiday season, people want to enjoy themselves, their friends and family, etc. It is sad, but many scammers also want to enjoy themselves--with YOUR money!
Lately, perhaps more so this holiday season than previously, there seems to be a scam hatching every minute.
A few of the typical ones I have seen go as follows:
- Bogus phone calls or E=Mail about your credit card. The caller or emailer claims to be with your MasterCard, Visa or Discover credit card company and says your credit card has been flagged for "unusual activity". This caller may in fact have the digits on the front of your card and will read them off, but then requests the 3-digit verification code on the back. DO NOT GIVE OUT THIS INFORMATION. Often, the caller has gotten the card number off of a hacked merchant computer or by working for a merchant, etc. Still, without physically having the card, they do not know the verification number, which is required for many transactions as Credit card companies use it to safeguard the card holder. If in doubt, request a call back phone number and say you will call back. Then, call your card issuer at the number printed on your statements to verify if there are in fact any problems.
- Too good of an offer on a new credit card. At the holiday season, it is common to run up tabs on a credit card. So is it any surprise scammers chose this time of year to offer you a credit card at a great rate? What these scammers really want is key information like your social security card number, income and other personal information, which can set you up for identity theft. As in the above item. you can defuse this scam by asking for a call back phone number and matching that against the agency supposedly issuing the card, i.e. Bank of America, etc.
- Bogus charities wanting your money. Many people want to share with the more unfortunate at this time of year. Expect a convincing story about the unfortunate they claim to help and remember these scammers want to sound real. Resist your altruistic feelings long enough to check out the so-called charity on the Better Business Bureau's Web site.
- Plumbing, roofing, etc "contractors" who are crooks. These folks put ads in newspapers or online saying they are licensed crafts people. They often do shoddy work or get halfway done and demand more money to get parts and never return. Always check their licenses first, check them on the Better Business Bureau's Web site and get them to sign a "statement of work" so you have in paper what is to be done.
- Anything that sounds too good to be true. Yes, it is time to remember what Mom told you. If the vacation deal sounds unbelievably great then you better check out the black-out dates for travel. If someone is willing to clean your house for a song, you might want to make sure they are not "casing" your home for a theft hit later, etc.
Enjoy and Share this Holiday, but not to Scammers
The holidays should be a season full of love and giving--to family, friends and good causes--not to scammers.
Sadly, there is true desperation in this economy, so be sure you donate to reputable charities if you are able. Food banks have been hit hard by the recession and could use some help. Have you a toy or coat to donate to a needy family? Many TV or radio stations organize drives where 100% of donated items get into the hands of the unfortunate.
Have a wonderful holiday season!