scam alert

While shopping is in high gear for the holidays, scammers and fraud are at their all time high. Being aware of the types of scams that con artists like to use can help keep you, and your money, safe this season.

Gift card scams

When purchasing gift cards, make sure to purchase from counter attendants or from customer service. Thieves will copy the codes on cards and call after the holidays (when they know they will be activated) and use them before the intended recipient gets a chance to. Grabbing a card from an unattended sales rack increases the chances of having this happen to you.

Online shopping scams

Scammers mimic or slightly alter a website domain name of a well-known retailer and launch a copycat site in its place, promising great deals on hot ticket items. The best bet to stay safe: Don’t click on a link from an email or social media site unless you are absolutely sure the message is from a legitimate business. And, before making a purchase, do an online search for the “vendor name + scam.” According to the AARP website, always confirm that the web address for the payment page starts with “https.”

Fake charities

December and January are prime months for charitable giving and scammers will take advantage of your generosity, and your hard-earned dollars, by creating a fake charity or by falsely representing a well-known group. Before making any donation, always verify an organization through charitynavigator.org or the Better Business Bureau (bbb.org).

Credit card scams

Some cons will use credit card scanners to get your credit card data. If you don’t catch false charges in enough time, you may still have to pay for the charges on your card. When using cash, the chances of this happening decrease dramatically. If you plan on using credit cards or debit cards, make sure to check all statements carefully and save receipts to verify purchase amounts.

Shipping and delivery scams

Shipping and receiving packages is an area where cons excel. They will follow delivery trucks and take delivered packages from homes. According to Shannon Buziecki, owner of Hitch ‘n Post, the best way to avoid shipping or delivery scams is to require a signature. “Packages are not insurable unless there is a signature required. It costs a few dollars more, but it’s worth it,” said Buziecki. Someone does have to be home to accept and sign for the delivery though. Most services will try to deliver three times or you can request the package be held for pick-up.

Santa letter scam

Several trusted companies offer charming and personalized letters from Santa, but scammers mimic them to get personal information from unsuspecting parents. Check with bbb.org to find out which ones are legitimate.

Stranded scam

A popular scam for many years targets the elderly. Seniors should be cautious if they get a call from a grandchild or loved one claiming to be in an accident, stranded, arrested or hospitalized and ask that money be wired immediately. Never send money unless you confirm with another family member that it’s true.

Too good to be true scams

The saying “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” is right on the money. Gift cards offered at much less than face value or free, social media present chains where you send one gift and get 25, prices on products much less than retail value, electronic greeting cards, downloading free holiday music or even temporary holiday jobs that want too much personal information or payment for leads are most likely scams. Be careful when downloading from the internet or clicking links in e-mails. Be cautions with your personal information.

In an effort to arm all Americans with the tools and resources to spot and avoid scams and identity theft, AARP launched the Fraud Watch Network earlier this year. A free resource for people of all ages, the Fraud Watch Network offers real-time alerts about the latest scams plus help for those who have been victimized and easy tips for everyone from identity theft prevention experts. The public can sign up free of charge at http://www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork or by calling 877-908-3360.

Being cautious when taking action online or in stores this season can save you from having to deal with scammers for the rest of the year.

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Managing Editor

Lindsey is the managing editor for the Skiatook Journal. She holds an M.A in English from the University of Central Oklahoma. Prior to the start of her news career in 2011, Renuard was a professor of English at the University of Central Oklahoma.