Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Festive Frauds & Seasonal Scams: A Rundown of Holiday Crimes

From fake e-cards to bogus charitable pitches, there are many of seasonal scams. This list --from the Consumer Credit Counseling Service -- is excellent. The tip about getting anti-hacking firewall software info from Consumer Reports is also excellent. (see below) Feel free to chime in with scams that you have seen.

"Holiday scams are often delivered by bogus e-mails, direct mail or phone calls in order to gain access to personal financial and account information. Consumers can help safeguard their finances with the following tips:

Discard fake e-cards – These e-mails look like a holiday greeting from a family member, friend or well-known company, but these fake messages are simply "phishing" for information by posing as a legitimate communication and then querying the recipient for personal information, which can be used to access financial accounts.

Beware of charity pleas – Scammers capitalize on consumers’ generosity during the holiday season by sending out mass e-mails or placing professional-sounding telephone solicitations, disguised as well-known charities. Don’t be fooled into giving any personal information, such as making a gift via credit card that requires disclosure of card numbers, expiration dates and/or security codes. The best bet: initiate direct contact oneself to make a donation to a trusted charity.

Ensure retail Web sites are secure – When shopping online this holiday season, type in the Web site address rather than following links from an e-mail, which may lead to a bogus site built by a hacker trying to access personal information. Before providing a credit card or other account information to an online retailer, look for a small lock in the lower right-hand corner of the computer screen or an address that starts with https:// instead of http://.

Research before buying — When in doubt, investigate a retailer’s profile through the Better Business Bureau or other credible organization, and do not ever purchase anything from a company unless it has a physical address and phone number.

Watch for false credit card offers – Scammers often try to lure consumers into fake credit card applications – requiring the disclosure of personal data – when they think consumers need it most, such as the holiday buying season.

Seek product guarantees — Purchasing from reputable companies that provide written guarantees and/or warranties helps ensure more worry-free holiday shopping.

Keep good records — Always print receipts for items or services purchased online, including the price, date, time and purchase confirmation number, in case this information is needed later.
Install a firewall — Sensitive information like tax records, bank account information or credit card numbers are often available on one’s personal computer, and online hackers can be quick to access them if an Internet firewall is not installed on the computer.

Visit for free guidance on firewall hardware and/or software options.
If needed, file a complaint – According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Web site, consumers who suspect a business may have broken the law can file a complaint by calling the FTC toll-free at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or file a complaint online at ."

Source: Consumer Credit Counseling Service


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