Don’t be scammed by a Grinch
Gone are the days when Christmas simply meant peace, joy and goodwill toward all men. Sadly, today’s yuletide message may read more like this – don’t be too trusting! There’s a tendency to let down your guard amidst the festive chaos and get taken for a ride by seasoned scammers.
A close look at some of the key scams might save you from unnecessary heartache.
We’re all looking for the perfect gift in record time. Scammers often create fake websites and online ads, particularly ones selling the latest in-demand gadgets (eg. ipad2) for crazy prices, which legitimate stockists may have sold-out of. Don’t let your haste to get the goods override common sense. Besides never receiving the product, you may start to find suspicious transactions on your credit card. One precaution may be to set up a separate credit card with a small spending limit, just for online purchases.
Identity thieves can take advantage of the simple E-card. You know the one – you get an email from a friend, click on the attached link and see a cute animated Christmas message onscreen. If you don’t know who it’s from or there are errors (like your name spelled incorrectly) don’t click on the link. You could be downloading malicious software that destroys your computer, or worse, starts to spy on the keys you press to give the scammer personal information (eg. bank account passwords).
Many charities boost their advertising to take advantage of the Christmas spirit. Scammers might use recent events, like the Bangkok floods, to solicit donations. If you’ve never heard of the organisation, confirm it exists (eg. do an online search). Be wary of charities that put pressure on you to donate NOW or are vague about the specifics of how donations are spent. And only write a cheque with the charity’s precise name – fraudsters can create organisations that sound nearly identical to legitimate charities.
Holiday scams are another biggie. Posting details about your holiday plans on social networking sites could make you the victim of a burglary while you’re away. Or worse, scammers could pose as you, contacting your Facebook “friends” for financial aid because of some drama that’s happened whilst on holiday (eg “I was mugged!”).
Also beware the holiday “deal” – phony hotels or travel companies that cold call offering discounted holiday vouchers, usually in exotic locations. After supplying your credit card details the supposed voucher never arrives. Or it does but the company that issued it no longer exists.
These are but a few! If you think you’ve been scammed, report it to Fair Trading NSW, and if you’ve given out bank details, freeze your account.
Celebrate the joy of Christmas by all means – just keep your wits about you.