The Most Common Holiday Scams

  • ‘Tis the Season for Scams

    Retailers are definitely feeling the holiday cheer this season. A report from the National Retail Federation found that consumers spent $45 billion during Black Friday weekend, and subsequent statistics show that online shopping has become more popular than ever. According to comScore, a company that tracks Internet data, Americans spent $9 billion shopping online during the first three weeks of November, a 13% increase from the same period in 2009. But unfortunately, an uptick in sales, both on and offline, means more opportunities for fraud, scams and identity theft. “Any time you have an increase in shopping activity, you are going to have an increase in the predators who prey on shoppers,” identity theft expert Denise Richardson tells MainStreet. “With so much more money moving around than in the other 11 months of the year, shoppers have to be smarter this month more than any other.” To help you and your cash stay safe this season, MainStreet rounds up the common scams consumers should be aware of. Photo Credit: Shaggy359
    Counterfeit Goods
  • Counterfeit Goods

    Bargain shoppers need to remember that buying a high-end luxury item on a little-known website is just as risky as purchasing one on a street corner. The Internet is full of bogus deal sites that sell only counterfeit items. Instyler actually compiled a list of fakers, after knock-offs of its popular rotating iron popped up all over the Web. Consumers should also know that counterfeit products can find their way onto legitimate retail sites as well. Tiffany’s, for example, recently tried (unsuccessfully) to sue eBay after the retailer discovered its jewelry’s knock-offs being auctioned on the site. If you’re looking for a Rolex watch, Louis Vuitton wallet or a pair of Louboutins, you’re best off patronizing the brand’s store, which often means paying full price for the item. Photo Credit: Roark Stiggs
    Counterfeit Bills
  • Counterfeit Bills

    It’s not only counterfeit goods that you need to be on the lookout for when buying gifts. According to the U.S. Secret Service, counterfeit money increases in circulation during the holiday season as “counterfeiters prey on both cashiers distracted by long lines, and consumers juggling purchases and shopping lists.” Sadly, once a counterfeit bill enters your possession, there’s very little you can do about it. To avoid finding one in your wallet, visit the Secret Service website for information on how to identity counterfeit bills. Small business owners should also make sure to have plenty of counterfeit detection pens at their registers, and instruct employees to use them on any bill they receive that is $20 or more. Photo Credit: Brentdpayne
    Fake Charity Scams
  • Fake Charity Scams

    ‘Tis the season for giving, which means it’s also the perfect time for phony nonprofits to coerce consumers out of their hard-earned cash. To avoid falling prey to their tricks, visit the Wise Giving Alliance website before opening up your wallet this holiday season. The website lists all the nationally recognized charities, while evaluating charities for consumers so they can avoid making any dubious donations. Photo Credit: Roblisameehan
    Order Confirmation Scams
  • Order Confirmation Scams

    The FBI defines phishing schemes as those that use e-mails to direct victims to spoofed merchant websites so they can cough up personal information or download malware onto their computer.  According to Richardson, one popular phishing scheme uses fake order confirmations to commit identity theft. Those of us who haven’t been shopping online are the ones who need to be on the lookout.  A Zappos order confirmation scam from earlier this year, for example, coerced people who hadn’t spent $928 on merchandise to click on malicious links in the e-mail to discover the root of the charges. It’s not just your inbox that scammers are flooding, either. A warning issued by the FBI this November reminded consumers to be on the lookout for smishing scams, which employ the same type of techniques as phishing, but appear on your smartphone instead. Photo Credit:  Ed Kohler
    Social Media Scams
  • Social Media Scams

    Beware any deals advertised via social media outlets, as scammers are just as savvy at imitating a retailers’ fan page as they are at mimicking websites. McAfee Labs , which specializes in virus protection, cites a November Facebook scam that offered a “free $1,000 Best Buy gift card” to the first 20,000 people who signed up on a bogus Best Buy fan page. The scam urged consumers to provide personal information as they took a series of quizzes. Malware tweets and posts are even more prevalent than fan page ruses. You might remember this scam, which used the lure of a http://www.cultofmac.com/ipad-facebook-scam-automatically-signs-up-victims-for-10-a-week-premium-cell-phone-service/32267 free iPad to get users to sign up for a premium cell phone service that cost $10 a week via both Facebook and Twitter.   Photo Credit:   e-strategy.com
    E-Card Scams
  • E-Card Scams

    According to McAfee Labs, cybercriminals are known to load phony e-cards with links to viruses or other malware during the holidays. Opening up these bogus e-cards can cause computers to display obscene images, bombard users with pop-up ads or hijack e-mail accounts in order to send out more cards and spread the virus. Check with anyone sending you a holiday greeting before opening up the seasonal cheer. Photo Credit: Grzegorz Lobinski
    What Should You Do?
  • What Should You Do?

    If you’re the victim of any of these scams or spot something suspicious, then notify the proper authorities. Cybercrimes can be reported Internet Crime Complaint Center, which is run by the FBI, the National White Collar Crime Center and the Bureau of Justice Assistance. You can also file a compliant with the Federal Trade Commission. Photo Credit: Kevin Dooley
    More Tips and Tricks
  • More Tips and Tricks

    The National Foundation for Credit Counseling issued the following tips for those shopping at brick-and-mortar stores:
    • Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t assume someone bumping into you is just an accident. The holiday season is rife with scammers and pick-pockets.
    • Lighten your wallet. Don’t carry your Social Security card, or any other identification with that info. You’ll only be helping a thief.
    • Make photocopies of your credit card. If your wallet gets stolen, you’ll have access to both your account number and customer service hotlines to report the theft.
    • Open your credit card statements as soon as they arrive.  Check online statements daily. That way, you can catch any improper or fraudulent charges as soon as they occur and can get them adjusted.
    View a complete list of the foundation’s tips on its website. Photo Credit: mugley
    Avoid Web Shopping Scams
  • Avoid Web Shopping Scams

    Are you conducting most of your holiday shopping online? Check out this MainStreet article that outlines all the scams you need to be aware of while purchasing presents online. It’s also full of tips on how to avoid them! Photo Credit:  istolethetv
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