The Holiday season is upon us. That means additional shopping, spending and traveling for many of us. Unfortunately, these increased transactions are also a golden opportunity for scammers. So, to help keep consumers and their money safe, Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens is offering the following tips:
Take precautions when making online transactions: Many scammers have set up bogus websites offering popular products at below-market prices. They’ll take your money but you’ll end up with nothing in return. To avoid these scams, do your online shopping through reputable, well-known websites. You can check out a company’s reputation through the Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org. In addition, you can do an Internet search by typing in the company name, along with the word “complaint,” “review” or “scam” to see what others have to say.
Credit cards: Offer greater protections against fraud than cash, checks or debit cards. If a transaction turns out to be fraudulent, e.g. you never receive the item or it is defective, and the company refuses to give you a refund, you can report the fraud to your credit card issuer, and if it agrees that you were the victim of fraud, the most you will be liable for is $50. Many credit card issuers will even waive that amount.
Package theft: Guard against thieves who may steal packages off your doorstep. If you’re shopping online, consider requiring a signature on the package. Or, if you don’t want to have to make the trip to the post office or shipping office to retrieve your parcel, request that the company ship it to your work address instead of your home.
Guard against identity theft: One of the best ways to protect yourself from identity theft is to check your bank and credit card accounts frequently. Keep your receipts and compare them to your statement. If you come across a charge you don’t recognize, contact your bank or credit card issuer immediately. In the event of identity theft, cancel the compromised cards and have new ones re-issued. You should also contact one of the three credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax and Transunion – to put a fraud alert or on your credit file.
Make sure you are donating to legitimate charities: Many charities solicit for donations around the holidays, but scammers like to get in on the action too. They may approach you in the store, at your car, or come to your door dressed up in holiday costumes, familiar uniforms or wearing a badge or other fake authorization. Or, you may get a phone call or email purporting to be from a charitable organization. Your safest bet is to initiate contact with the charity of your choice by finding them directly. Avoid clicking on pop-up ads or links from unsolicited emails. You can also research a charity by going to www.give.org or charitynavigator.org.
Malicious links: Be very wary about opening attachments or clicking on links to e-greeting cards, advertisements for holiday deals or notifications about package delivery problems. These may be from scammers hoping you will divulge personal or financial information or who are trying to get you to download malware on your computer. It is safer to go to the original retailer’s website to take advantage of sales. To check the delivery status of a package, you should go to your original online order or confirmation and look up the order status or tracking information.
Prize promotions: Don’t give out personal information for a chance to win that cool new gadget or free gift card. Your information can be sold or used to commit identity theft.
Sweepstakes Scams. How great it would be to win a big cash prize right before the holidays! Unfortunately, your odds of encountering a scammer far outweigh your chances of getting an unexpected windfall. Sweepstakes scams are actually easy to spot. If you are asked to pay money – especially via wire transfer – in order to collect your prize, it’s a scam. And never give out your bank account information to a caller over the phone.
Shopping apps: collect personal information about you so they can alert you of relevant discounts based on your preferences and location. While your name, address and email may be required, think twice about using an app that requires you to provide more personal information such as your driver’s license, Social Security Number or birth date. Also, make sure you’re choosing an app that explains what they do with your data and how they keep your personal information secure.