The holiday season is a happy time celebrated with food, family and friends. Unfortunately, it’s also a time for fraud at the hands of identity thieves, computer hackers and deceptive sellers. Hawai‘i’s Better Business Bureau (BBB) offers advice on how to recognize and avoid common holiday scams.
Online Shopping Scams
Some Web sites use tantalizingly low prices to lure in victims. If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. Also, scammers often request wire payment through Western Union or MoneyGram because the money cannot be easily tracked or retrieved. Never wire money to strangers and always use a credit card to pay for items online. If the site or seller is fraudulent, you can dispute the charge with your credit card company.
Identity Theft at the Mall
Don’t let yourself be bogged down with packages or so rushed that you lose track of your wallet. Know where your credit and debit cards are at all times, and only carry the ones you’re going to use. Also, cover the keypad when entering your personal identification number while purchasing items or when getting money from the automated teller machine (ATM).
Phishing e-mails fraudulently represent a trustworthy source. It is a way for ID thieves to get your personal information, or for hackers to install malicious software on your computer. Beware of unsolicited e-mail from unfamiliar people and companies. Don’t click on any links or open any attachments the e-mail contains. Always be sure your computer has current antivirus software and security patches installed.
Charitable Giving Scams
Beware of tear-jerking appeals that tell you little about what the charity or its cause. Ask questions about how your donation will be used. For example, if a charity claims to help the homeless, ask how and where this is taking place. Also, don’t succumb to pressure to give money on the spot. A charity that needs your money today will welcome it just as much tomorrow … after you’ve confirmed that it is legitimate.
Have a happy, scam-free holiday!
Bonnie Horibata is vice-president of Hawai‘i’s Better Business Bureau. BBB provides objective advice, business and charity reports, and information about topics affecting marketplace trust at bbb.org.