The Holiday Season seems to bring out the best and worst of human nature. On the worst side are the scams that are designed to cheat honest people out of their money. As we get closer to Christmas and as the economy worsens, it is important that we all be aware that scammers are keeping busy.
Some of the more common scams that we see include:
- Lottery Scam: This is one of the most popular counterfeit check scams because it is successful. The victim will receive a letter or e-mail informing them that they have won a lottery or sweepstakes. They are given a counterfeit check to finance the taxes and fees associated with collecting the prize. They are asked to cash or deposit the check and wire the money to an individual who is collecting the “tax”. It is difficult to detect this scam because the checks are usually lower dollar amounts (less than $3,000) and technology makes it easy to counterfeit real bank checks. The victims are also told not to disclose their good fortune until they collect their grand prize. The reason this is so successful is that it plays on an American dream. If you receive one of these letters and checks, ask someone at your bank before you fall victim.
- Internet Auction Scam: In this scam, the victim places an item for sale on the Internet (not necessarily on e-bay, often on local classified websites). The winning bidder contacts them to arrange payment, but there is a catch. The buyer is overseas and shipping needs to be arranged. Payment is sent in the form of a counterfeit check for thousands of dollars in excess of the purchase price. The buyer is asked to wire the excess money to the buyer’s shipper who will arrange pickup of the item (they are often told that there is a little extra money for them to keep for their trouble to sweeten the deal). The money is wired before the check comes back, leaving the victim out the money.
- Internet Auction Scam 2: In this scam, the victim receives counterfeit money orders for their items. In most cases, the item is sent before the counterfeit is detected and the victim is out the money and they item that they were selling. Most money orders have instructions for validating their authenticity. For example, some have a circle on each of the money orders that will change colors if you rub it, or they have a telephone number to call. Postal money orders can be verified by calling 1-866-459-7822.
These scams are always evolving and we see new twists all of the time. Education is the best form of scam prevention. Just remember if it seems too good to be true it probably is. Have a safe and happy holiday season.
There are lots of people out there making a living off of tricking an honest consumer out of their money. Yet there are simple tips and precautions that can protect you. After all criminals look for the easy scam, if they were into hard work they would probably have real jobs!
Do not leave your wallet or purse in plain sight in an unattended vehicle. It takes less than a minute for a passing thief to break your window and snatch anything they want.
Never write your PIN on your debit or credit cards or have them written down close to where you keep your cards.
Buying products or services on-line must be done with care. Using reputable sites that have been around awhile is always encouraged. Sometimes when you authorize them to charge your card you are unknowingly signing up for a service as well. They might charge your card every month for a monthly e-newsletter or some other nonsense.
This is more a fact than a tip. Lately there has been an e-mail rumor going around saying if you are held up at the ATM and you put in your pin backwards the ATM will signal the police. THIS IS NOT TRUE! In fact most debit and credit cards have the option where the user can pick their own pin number. In that case if you pick 5555 as your pin there is no way the ATM could decipher what is forwards and what is backwards.
Thanks to Sherol Rumbagh for sharing these tips!
That’s right; I really did win the lottery. Well, at least that’s what an email told me. Even though I’ve never lived in, or visited England, somehow I won their lottery. I couldn’t believe my luck while reading this. It seemed so weird that I had won because just that week a customer came in with a check saying she won the lottery in Nigeria. Two big winners in one week! All I had to do to collect my winning check was send back an email with my current contact information. There was also a form where I had to fill in my lottery ticket number and the amount I won. Strange that they were informing me I won, yet they didn’t have my ticket number, but I chalked it up to a misunderstanding. So I filled in the winning ticket numbers I would have played. Deciding the amount I won, well that was difficult. I didn’t want to appear too greedy so I put down a meager five billion dollars. I figure that’s the difference between having a plain quarter pounder and having one with cheese for the rest of my life. The English lotto officials were so accommodating. All I had to do in order to get my winnings was give them my bank account number and they took out several thousand dollars for ticket and handling fees. After doing this, I was told it would only take a few weeks for them to send me my big winnings. It’s only been a few months since they emptied out my account, so I know I should be receiving the money any day now. I wonder what I’ll buy first after I pay off all of the recent debt I’ve incurred.
NO, I did not send them any money or give out my bank account number! Hopefully after reading this, most of you have realized what a joke lottery scams are. I guarantee it’s a scam any time you receive an email saying you’ve won a foreign lottery. Why on earth would someone send money to a lottery office in order to get money sent back to them? Yet it happens all the time. Even if by some one in a trillion chance it was real, too bad! It’s illegal in the U.S. to play any foreign lottery. So please don’t get fooled by these emails and watch out for your elders so they don’t fall for these tricks via direct mail or phone and end up losing everything. To learn more about foreign lottery scams, talk with your local police department, talk with a bank official, or check out http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/alerts/intlalrt.shtm.