It’s that time of year again when cyber criminals are hard at work trying to separate you from your holiday joy. They’re busy tricking victims into contributing to made-up charities, investing in Ponzi schemes and bidding on phony auctions. All in an attempt to take advantage of your generosity and to steal your cash.
Here are five holiday scams to watch out for.
Virus Ridden Holiday eCards. With postage rates heading skyward, many folks are sending Christmas eCards this year. Unfortunately, some on-line greetings are accompanied by malicious spyware and other corruptive devices.
Solution – Resist the temptation to open forwarded eCards. Only open those from people you know.
Made-Up Charities. Thieves solicit funds for phony and sound alike charities by making phone calls, and sending text and email messages.
Solution – Protect yourself by donating through a charity’s website or checking on its legitimacy through IRS Publication 78. An online version is available to help you research organizations that are eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions. The most common type of nonprofit is designated 501(c)3.
Loan Scams. Don’t fall victim to ads marketing quick cash, with no credit check. Most have applications that require an upfront processing fee. Once the fee is paid, victims never hear from the scammers again.
Solution – A better alternative is to pare down your Christmas spending by using the cash you have on hand.
Shopping Scams. Popular networking and auction sites provide convenient and money saving opportunities for buyers and sellers. They’re also prime real-estate for scammers and other cyber thieves. The most popular scams involve cars, jewelry, and tickets to sporting events and live shows.
Solution – Stay away from buyers and sellers who display the following characteristics:
- Uses a wire service for monetary transactions.
- Pays by money order, or cashier’s check and even legitimate escrow services.
- Refuses to meet you in person.
Whether selling an item in person or via the Internet, it’s best to only accept cash. And always … trust your instincts.
Holiday Vacation Rentals. This type of fraud is gaining momentum because many folks choose to spend Christmas and other holidays away from home. Soaking up rays in the Caribbean, skiing in Vail and sightseeing in The Big Apple are popular hot spots.
Beware of criminals reposting legitimate rental property ads as their own. Scammers create fraudulent email accounts and other identifying information using the real names of brokers and property owners who place bona fide ads. Victims interested in renting properties unwittingly communicate and send funds to accounts criminals create.
Solution – Use well-known travel agencies and Internet sites.
Remember – If it sounds too good to be true … it is.
Today’s holiday bandits make it hard to keep the twinkle in your eye this year. It takes careful planning and a few street smarts to keep sneaky criminals at bay.