Don’t Get Scrooged…Tips to Avoid Scammers

shutterstock_Rob-Byron_web_Scammers seem to take special joy in the holiday season. They ramp up their efforts especially at this time of year. Don’t fall prey to these grinches. Enjoy the holidays but be mindful of where these scammers may be lurking. Here are some tips.

Top Holiday Scams & Tips for How to Avoid Them

By Justin Lavelle

Limit Email List Sign Up

As for those hundreds of email lists you’ve signed up for to get the first time purchase discount, don’t discount what a dedicated thief can do with just those limited pieces of information. Only sign up for lists from vendors you trust and frequent regularly.

Invest In A Shredder to Head Off Scammers

While the new generation of data breaches that have afflicted companies and consumers alike seem to exist in a world of high-tech software, there are some hardware solutions that can help prevent hackers from getting a leg up on you. Ensure that all bills, bank statements and even presorted junk mail with your name on it gets thoroughly destroyed before being thrown away. Many scams still revolve around obtaining your info through traditional pieces of mail. Better yet, opt out of credit card junk mail here and switch to paperless billing with all of your bills. It will save trees and give identity thieves less of an opportunity to make you a mark.

Make Sure Your Online Romance is More ‘White Christmas’ and Less Holiday Scam Artistry

Scam artists know that people are typically lonelier around the holidays without family or a partner and may be more vulnerable leaving themselves open to online dating scams. Due to the anonymity of the internet, lying and scamming can be incredibly easy. They play on emotions to get money, gifts and personal information. If you’re not careful, you could get scammed out of your time (and feelings) or even money. Always insist on photos (more than the profile photo which could be fake). Ask for specific details about their life and look for inaccuracies and avoidance in answering questions. Beware of people who express strong emotions for you in a relatively short period of time. Never send money or give personal information to anyone.

Beware Of Gift Delivery Theft

You’d be shocked by how many packages are stolen from the doorstep of homes in busy neighborhoods during the holiday season. With tons of packages arriving and sitting on your doorstep while you’re at work, they make a tempting and easy target for thieves. If you live in a city or high-foot traffic area, consider an Amazon Locker or sending your packages to your office or with a neighbor you know will be home during the day.

Deter Potential Holiday Time Burglars

Holiday travel leads to empty homes and an increase in home burglaries. According to the FBI, nearly 400,000 homes are burglarized each year during the holiday season. And they aren’t just after what’s under the Christmas tree, they also want jewelry, electronics, guns, phones and cash. Take some common sense steps to deter thieves. Have a neighbor you trust check in on your home. Consider investing in a home security system and a lighting system that will alternate your lights to give the appearance of people being at home. Buy inexpensive window locks and make sure your front doors and door leading to the garage are locked at all times, most homes are broken into during the afternoon hours.

Don’t Fall Prey To Charity Fraud

The season of giving is also the season of taking to a thief. Charity fraud is common this time of year. Use a website like Charity Navigator to research charities and their legitimacy. Don’t be afraid of giving, just use caution and check out ones that are unfamiliar.

Personal Protection From Scams

Unfortunately, older adults tend to be a target for scam artists year round, but the holidays are especially busy for hustlers. Older folks sometimes spend holidays alone and find themselves lonely and vulnerable. This is the perfect entry for a scammer. The unscrupulous may call with a need to send money for an emergency, ask to be allowed into your home or try to get you to fall for ‘special sales.’ Be aware especially this time of year.

Get Key Information From Private/Unknown Sellers

Before you buy your holiday gifts at a great deal from a private seller (such as on Craig’s List) ask for their key identifying information such as full name, address, phone number, etc. With multiple pieces of information you can cross reference the data on a search and make sure they match up. This will give you the confidence that if something goes wrong with the sale, you’ll have some way of connecting with the seller.

Due Diligence When Dealing With Small Merchants

If you’re dealing with a small merchant you can verify the person is associated with the business by doing a search and connecting their DBA or LLC with the individual’s name. Just confirm the business name and location with the individual who is emailing you. Sometimes you can track their area code back to their area of business as well to help confirm it’s legitimate. Consider the customer service options the website offers. Check a company’s reputation with the Better Business Bureau, look at review sites or even search a retailer’s name along with “scam” to see if it checks out. The BBB is also a valuable tool to learn about new scams circulating.

Avoid Online Shopping in Public Places With Wi-Fi

Although coffee shops, grocery stores and other public places may have convenient internet connections, they’re often not secure which could allow someone else to easily access your information.

Be Aware Of 3rd Party Companies Tracking Your Online Habits

These companies use data collecting tools and assemble info. into databases in order to sell the data (in addition to shopping habits, gender, age info., they can even locate our physical address via your computer’s IP address. These databases also hold information on personal questions we google-health, relationship issues, etc.). Basically they are selling our demographic information combined with our habits. Prevent this by clearing out your cache, turn off cookie trackers so sites won’t remember you, apply privacy blockers and select a service that masks IP addresses.

If An Offer Looks Too Good To Be True, It Probably Is

This probably goes without saying, but be wary of random links or emails that have unbelievable offers as it could be malware to steal their credentials when they log into banking websites later on. Also beware of door-to-door sales. Fake notifications about package delivery problems are common during the holidays also.

Go with Your Gut Feeling

Always use common sense, your intuition and public data, to help inform your decisions during the holiday season and enjoy the time with your family.

Justin Lavelle is a blogger with BeenVerified, a background check company that provides consumer initiated criminal background and people search services through its website “” as well as its mobile application “Background Check.
*Photo: Shutterstock_Rob-Byron
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