The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance’s Division of Consumer Affairs is warning residents to be wary of holiday-themed scams.
TDCI says scammers use the holidays to prey on people’s good nature and reminds people “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
TDCI offered the following precautions:
- Be suspicious of anyone requiring you to send money with prepaid money cards.
- Be suspicious of apps, online advertisements, or websites offering prices that seem suspiciously lower than retail prices at trusted retailers.
- Consider paying with a credit card that offers fraud protection when possible.
- Only shop on secure websites. Look for https in the address (the extra “s” is for “secure”) and for a lock symbol.
- When it comes to charitable giving, remember:
- Don’t assume that charity recommendations on social media platforms or blogs have already been vetted. Research the charity yourself.
- Find out what percentage of your donation will go to the charity and whether you will be charged any fees for making a donation through a fundraising platform website.
- Check to see if the charity is registered with the Tennessee Secretary of State.
- Be cautious when looking to give to charities that pop up soon after a tragedy or natural disaster.
- Websites posing as charities can sometimes look identical to the real organization. These fraudulent websites will often ask for personal or financial information over an unsecure connection or may download harmful malware into your computer. Look for a padlock symbol or “https” before the web address indicating that it is secure.
- Avoid being pressured to make an immediate donation. Don’t hesitate to ask questions to get more information.
- If you didn’t initiate contact, avoid giving personal or financial information over the phone.
- Never write out a check or give cash to an individual solicitor. Write out checks to the name of the organization or use a credit card.
TDCI also wants people to be familiar with common holiday scams:
- UPS phishing scams: A phony notice from UPS says you have a package and need to fill out an attached form to get it delivered. The form may ask for personal or financial details that will go straight into the hands of the cyberscammer.
- Banking phishing scams: Cybercriminals craft emails to look like notices sent by actual banks in hopes of scamming busy and distracted consumers into providing their online banking usernames and passwords.
- SMS phishing scams: Scammers send fake messages via a text alert to a phone, notifying an unsuspecting consumer that his bank account has been compromised. The cybercriminals then direct the consumer to call a phone number to get it re-activated—and collects the user’s personal information including Social Security number, address, and account details.
- E-card scams: While sending electronic cards can be convenient and fun, beware if you must share additional information to open the card, or if the sender’s name is not apparent.
- Holiday job scams: Retailers and delivery services need extra help at the holidays, but beware of solicitations that require you to share personal information online or pay for a job lead. Apply in person or go to retailers’ main websites to find out who is hiring.
- Letters from Santa scams: Several trusted companies offer charming and personalized letters from Santa, but scammers mimic them to get personal information from unsuspecting parents. Check with www.bbb.org to find out which ones are legitimate.
- Family emergency scams: Be cautious if you get a call or email from a family member or friend claiming to be in an accident, arrested, or hospitalized while traveling in another country. Never send money unless you confirm with another family member that it’s true.