Avoid holiday rip-offs, scams

Okay, well I might have been a little frivolous in my “throw- caution-to-the-wind” approach to Thanksgiving dinner. Truthfully, I almost died.

It looked so good on my third helping and who can turn down another round of oyster dressing because you know, oysters are said to be aphrodisiacs but, well, I guess I didn’t think it through because after eating, the only thing I was interested in doing was trying not to die. I was sitting on the couch, bloated like three-day old road kill. Somehow we survived it as I hope you did.

Back to business.

It has already started. Christmas rip-offs and scams are all over the place and despite warnings and all the good information out there on avoiding them, people still seem to walk right into trouble as if they just got off the bus from Sesame Street.

Wake up!

Fraud can be avoided.

Here are some things we call “clues” in police work.

Watch out if:

  • The deal sounds too good to be true.
  • There’s high pressure to act right away.
  • A promise of “unusually” high return on an investment.
  • The deal requires you to pay a fee up front even for a “free” prize.
  • Buyers want to overpay you for an item and have you send them or someone else the difference. (This one is very common.)

Walk away from any deal or offer that you don’t feel right about.

Facts

  • Your bank will not e-mail or call you for your account number.
  • Never wire money to someone you don’t know.
  • Be leery of work-at-home offers.
  • Check companies out with the Better Business Bureau.
  • There are NO legitimate jobs that involve reshipping items or financial instruments from your home.
  • Foreign lotteries are illegal in the U.S. You can’t win regardless of what they say.
  • Check your bank statements for charges you don’t recognize.
  • Get your credit report FREE once each year from www.annualcreditreport.com.

Be involved

Teach your kids and your parents about “too good to be true” offers. Be skeptical, and teach this to them. Many seniors are now on the Internet and fall prey to “nest egg investment” scams. Many kids are teenagers and well, enough said.

Don’t forget about ‘low-tech’ thefts.

During the holidays there will be super-heavy mailing activity. Mail boxes will be stuffed. There are thieves who prefer the age-old method of snatching mail from the box. If the mail box is full, find one that’s not. Hint: If you can see the mail that’s already in the box, this is bad. Walk away. Walk away like you’re walking away from an impromptu multi-level marketing presentation at your friend’s house.

Don’t mail from your mailbox. Use the U.S. Post Office boxes that aren’t full or drop it off at the post office.

In summary, if it isn’t there to steal, they won’t steal it. All you can do is put the percentages on your side. Remember that every crook uses the good ol’ “risk-and-opportunity” formula. Make it hard for them. Let them go somewhere else.

Report

If someone attempts to scam you or you’re the attempted target of fraud, report it. If you see a theft or even what you think is an attempt, call your local police agency.

If you’ve received a suspected fraud through the U.S. Mail, or if the mail used in the commission of a crime that began on the Internet,  report it to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service by phone, in person or online.

There are U.S.P.I.S. offices in every major city.

And, finally, here is the best piece of advice I can give you. I’ve gotten e-mails from theft victims who had a wallet stolen from their purse but not their driver’s license, ID, debit and credit cards. Why? They put them in their front pants pocket. This should be an absolute for you: Put your driver’s license, ID, debit and credit cards in your front pants pocket—not back pocket—and, don’t go shopping in a dress. That goes for you too ladies. HA!

- By Lt. Steve Rose, View from the Cop blog

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