Top five ways to avoid holiday season scams

WHILE CELEBRATING the holidays, be aware of aggressive and deceptive scams designed to steal your money and personal information.

by Aswad Walker

Houston Defender

For many, the holiday season brings with it thoughts of good cheer. But for others, their focus turns to getting over on their neighbors by way of scams.

Yes, as we enter the 2023 holiday sea­son, we need to remain vigilant against folk who couldn’t care less about giving because they’re all about receiving, or rather stealing, your stuff and mine.

In other words, while you’re out and about, getting your shop on, looking for a good deal or two, make sure to add to your Christmas list a reminder for you to be aware of aggressive and deceptive scams designed by criminals to steal your money and personal information.

And because the old adage, “It takes a criminal to know a criminal,” is true, we would do well to heed the advice of the FBI, an institution literally found­ed by the biggest criminal to perpetrate frauds, deceit and assassinations upon Black people—J. Edgar Hoover. Don’t get me started on the never-ending laundry list of crimes committed by the FBI’s COINTELPRO upon Black folk, Latinx folk, Indigenous folk, anti-war folk, women’s rights folk… but predomi­nantly Black folk.

You get the point. If anyone knows about crime, it’s mos def the criminal en­terprise known as the FBI (the fact that MAGA White nationalists are attacking the FBI, one of the most White nation­alist-loving institutions this country has, tells you how crazy the times are in which we’re living). But back to the issue at hand. According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), Texas residents lost over $763 million to fraudsters in 2022, including nearly $20 million in phishing and non-deliv­ery scams.

This year, FBI Houston wants Texas Gulf Coast shoppers to enjoy a scam-free holiday season by heeding the fol­lowing tips:

Buyers Beware

Criminals frequently offer too-good-to-be-true deals via phishing emails, text messages, and online surveys designed to steal personal information. Bottom line: if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is!

Stay clear of unfamiliar sites offering unrealistic discounts on brand-name merchandise. Consumers should also remain skeptical of social media posts offering special deals, vouchers, or gift cards. These scams frequently lead con­sumers to online surveys designed to steal personal information. Before you click on a social media advertisement or provide credit card information, check the legitimacy of the website through independent research. Without practic­ing vigilance, shoppers may end up pay­ing for an item, giving away personal in­formation, and receive nothing in return except a compromised identity.

Sellers, Stay Alert

Keep an eye out for buyers who want items shipped before they will send pay­ment, especially if those buyers use one name when communicating and another name or business for payment purposes. Also, buyers who receive your merchan­dise and ask for a refund, but do not send the original merchandise back may be part of a larger fraud scheme.

Steer Clear of Charity Scams

Unscrupulous criminals capitalize on charity-related fraud during the holidays since they know kind-heart­ed individuals seek to donate to those less fortunate. If I’m not mistaken, the Pennsylvania Avenue before President Biden was literally found guilty of pocketing money he raised in the name of various charities. Unude who occupied 1600 scrupulous, indeed. But criminals will “criminal,” especially during this time of year, using phone calls, email campaigns, and fake websites to so­licit on behalf of fraudu­lent charities. Scammers target people who want to donate to charity, then hoard well-intentioned donations while those most in need never see a dime.­

Five Scam-Blocking Steps

Beyond those list­ed above, here are five actions you can take to avoid holiday fraud schemes:

  • Before shopping on­line, secure all your fi­nancial accounts with strong passphrases. Make sure to use differ­ent passphrases for each financial account.
  • Never give personal information—such as your date of birth, home address, Social Security number, or bank account and credit card num­bers—to anyone you do not know. Be highly sus­picious of social media promotions and give­aways that require your personal information.
  • Be wary of online transactions that solely require wire transfers, virtual currency, or gift cards.
  • Pay for items using a credit card dedicated for online purchases, check the card statement reg­ularly, and never save payment information in online accounts. Do not use public Wi-Fi, espe­cially when submitting credit card or payment information online.
  • Prior to donating to any charity, verify they have a valid Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) by visiting their website or calling the charity directly.

(This post was originally published on Defender Net­work)

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