Seasons come and go, but con artists are here to stay.
The holiday season scams will be closely followed by the winter scams, followed by the Valentine’s Day scams. Entering December brings a new effort on the part of the crooks. Here are two comeback scams from the season.
As temperatures drop below freezing, the number of impostor calls increases. Some calls in the early evening carry the threat of the “electric company” to cut off the electricity in your home due to unpaid bills. Potential victims are told to pay with gift cards from a local store and read the code numbers on the cards.
Federal agencies, including the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission, are reporting victims whose level of anxiety was sufficient to cause them to comply with the requirements.
The Reality: Consumer protection laws clearly require a defined process that utility companies must follow before terminating service. If you receive any of these calls, know that it is fraudulent, hang up the phone, and report the call to the FTC (ftc.gov).
Another winter scam offers virtually free vacations at some resorts or ski resorts. All that is required is personal information, which may include a social security number, driver’s license, address, phone number, and demographic data (age, gender, ethnicity). These scams can also require symbolic payment by gift card or credit card.
The reality: These are âphishingâ expeditions that collect personal information that can be used or sold to commit further fraud.
Statistically, those who are victimized are more likely to be victimized again. The best way to avoid being a victim is to not answer any questions and disconnect from the phone call. Note: Legitimate timeshare and vacation companies also promote these opportunities. If you accept one, be prepared to attend a two-hour pressure sales presentation.
As with most scams, the criminal wants you to get caught up in the emotion; that’s when logic and common sense go. Whenever you find yourself in an emotional state, such as fear or joy, self-discipline is your ally.
Now that the holidays have arrived, keep this latest round of holiday scam reminders in mind. While there is no way to completely protect yourself from scams while on vacation, there are some clear steps you can take to reduce your vulnerability. These are probably the most crucial recommendations for dealing with the vacation scam.
â¢ Be cautious of online holiday sales promising the continuation of Black Friday or Cyber ââMonday prices. A price “too good to be true” can be just that. Sales promotions from a business you don’t recognize, or with whom you haven’t done business, can be deceptive. Unsolicited messages and items sold through social media can be scam traps.
â¢ Take a few steps to defend yourself. Beware of online offers.
Websites whose name contains Weebly, GoDaddy, or Wix should be treated with caution. Sleek websites are easy to create and lend credibility to the scam. Find out about the business, using your browser’s search engine, typing the business name with the word “complaint” or “review,” or contact the Better Business Bureau.
â¢ Do you order items for delivery? Package thefts are at an all time high this year. Most thefts happen in broad daylight, and in some cases criminals are actually following delivery trucks. Ensure safe deliveries by keeping packages in a secure location for pickup or by having someone present for deliveries.
â¢ The final scam protection tip this holiday season: gifting during the holidays is wonderful; just make sure your gift goes where you want it to go.
Scammers over the phone, over the Internet, using SMS are effective at stealing well-meaning donations. Verify the recipient and donate by sending a check or use a credit card.
You can help educate and protect your family, friends and neighbors by sharing this information. Additionally, join AARP Fraud Watch if you want to make an impact in your community.
Questions, concerns? Contact me, [email protected]
Elliott Greenblott is a retired educator and coordinator of the AARP Vermont Fraud Watch Network. He hosts a CATV show, “Mr. Scammer,” distributed by GNAT-TV in Sunderland, Vermont: gnat-tv.org.