Cedar River Finance

By Theresa Blair

 The holidays are here; the season of generosity and love. Unfortunately, it is also the                      prime season for under-handedness and fraud. Keep your holiday merry by avoiding these            popular scams and pitfalls.

9 Holiday Favorite Scams and how to avoid them:

Abominable Online Shopping Scams/Look-a-like Websites:

Be careful when shopping online many legitimate business are finding that their web sites are     being spoofed or having look-a-like copies out there.  Protect yourself by paying attention to the URLs. Check for slight misspellings and be wary of URLs that use well-known brand names along with extra words or letters. 

Call now: 319-362-2185

Best advice is to pay attention to the URLs and shop at reputable stores.  If it is a new online location/store take the time to check their reviews, the Better Business Bureau and even search the name and “scam” to see if it checks out. Better safe than sorry!

Bah-Hum Bug Links:

Another holiday favorite phishing scam is Fake Shipping Notifications: These try to lure you in to clicking on a link or attachments that will download malware on your computer designed at best to lock up your system… at worst steal your identity and your passwords. 

Don’t click on links in emails about package delivery problems instead return to the original order confirmation, find your tracking number and enter it on the website you made the purchase through or the website of the carrier such as FedEx or USPS.

Also avoid opening E-cards where the senders name is not apparent as it very well may be from an identity theft Grinch.

Grinch Gift Cards:

Gift Cards are a popular gift.  It is a great way to let the person receiving to get something they will really like.  Of course, the popularity brings swindlers.  The most popular rouse is to copy the codes off the back of the gift cards before they are purchased and then wait for them to be activated to drain the funds. 

Easy steps to protect yourself: purchase cards from behind store counters, check preloaded cards to make sure they are still loaded and look at the back of the card to ensure the protective scratch-off area is still intact.

Free Gifts:

If you have not learned this lesson yet listen up, “There Is No Such Thing as Getting Something for Nothing!” Pop-up ads and emails offering Free Gifts or Gift Cards are usually just a ploy to get your personal information.

Charity Charade:

“’Tis the season of giving,” right?  Scammers count on your generosity and set up fake charity solicitations in email, on social media and even by text. If you’re considering a new appeal be sure to check out the charity at Give.org (http://www.give.org) before making a donation.

Social Media Reindeer Games:

Gift exchanges on social media sound like a great deal.  They are usually set up where you buy 1 gift and get a bunch in return.  It’s a variation of a pyramid scheme and it’s illegal.

Credit Cookie:

Use a credit card instead of your debit card when making holiday purchases and make sure it is a secure website; look for “https” (the s=secure) in the address and the lock symbol. Should your number get stolen you are usually only liable for the first $50 in fraudulent charges.  The protection is not the same with your debit card and it opens up the possibility of having your entire account cleaned out. 

If you are asked for an unusual form of payment, such as prepaid debit cards, gift cards, wire transfers, etc., be very wary.  These payments cannot be traced and cannot be undone.

Santa Surfing:

Surf safely.  Do not use public Wi-Fi to check sensitive financial information or to make purchases using your credit card.

Package Theft:

As if the holidays are not stressful enough, it is estimated, by an insuranceQuotes.com report, that 23 million Americans have at some point had packages stolen from their doorsteps.

Protect those packages by having them delivered to your office, a local UPS store or pick-up area, or schedule the delivery when you will be home.  Also set-up and pay attention to tracking notifications so you are aware of when the package is delivered so you’ll know if it goes missing. 

To find out more about scams or to report one, go to BBB Scam Stopper at http://bbb.org/scam.