Scam Alerts

Superstorm Sandy Scams

By Florence Klein - 
 

The news coverage of Hurricane Superstorm Sandy hit airways some seventy-two hours before it slammed into the East Coast. Now the storm has passed and our citizens begin the process of assessing the damage and make a start at putting homes, businesses and lives back together.

There is, and will be, need for aid and assistance. There will also be crooks out looking to get money for themselves in the name of the victims. This happens after any major or even minor disaster. So be on the lookout for scams using the destruction and media coverage of Superstorm Sandy.

Be on the lookout for emails containing links to fraudulent donation sites or that may carry viruses. Do not follow links in emails from senders you do not know. Scam emails may urging you to “see amazing images”, “check out this site” or “watch this” links. These are aimed at getting your money or causing havoc on your computer using your interest and concern as bait.

Please take care with your resources and use caution while online. We join with the FBI and the Internet Crime Complaint Center to pass along these important security guidelines for online giving.

  • Do not respond to unsolicited email – just delete them
  • Beware of individuals soliciting donations via email
  • Do not follow links contained within an unsolicited emails – just delete them
  • Only open attachments from people you know – beware of emails with attached files as they may contain
  • Make contributions directly to known organizations – do not rely on someone you do not know to make donations on your behalf
  • Validate the legitimacy of the organizations before donating to them
  • Directly access recognized charity and aid organization through their websites
  • Do not provide personal or financial information to anyone soliciting contributions – providing this information can compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft

One sure way to donate is visit the American Red Cross at www.redcross.org (no link here you will need to type it in yourself – just to practice being safe). Navigate to their donation page to help out

If you need to report suspected charity fraud, email the National Center for Disaster Fraud or call them at (866) 720-5721.

You can also report scam e-mails and fraud web sites to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

Stay Safe,
Florence

Senior Scams are in Full Swing

… And it’s going to get worse!

By Julie Hall, The Estate Lady -

Boomer children, be warned.  While the poor economy is definitely a huge culprit when it comes to senior scams, we also need to face the fact that many people out there are indescribably unscrupulous, earning money to hurt the ones you love.  I’ve often wondered how these people sleep at night and live with themselves, but I have come to realize these scam artists don’t seem to have much of a conscience.

Since I have had several blog followers ask me to write about the scams that have robbed their loved ones in many different ways, I want to shed light on what our seniors are going through, that often as children we don’t see … or don’t want to see.  The phone rings and it’s a friendly voice the elderly person is attracted to.  Our elderly relative might be lonely or soft-hearted and give information they shouldn’t give to the stranger.  Sadly, they are of a generation that may not fully recognize the impact of the world wide web and its power.  The stroke of a finger on a keyboard could mean financial devastation to them, and their personal information is spread around the world in an instant, never to be retrieved.

The telemarketers prey on them, promising a lottery, other forms of a windfall, and free stuff.  There is no “free.”  It all comes at a price.  We must also take into consideration that many of our relatives suffer from dementia, and the effects it has on their logic and reasoning.  In some cases, they don’t know any better, or they are just sweet-natured and gullible.  Some even buy things from TV home shopping channels just to have social interaction with the customer service rep on the phone and the UPS man when he drops off their purchases.

These are some of the things I see, but the National Council on Aging has this to say about senior scams:

  • All seniors are targeted, both low income as well as high income, because it is perceived they have plenty of money saved.
  • Over 90% of all reported elder abuse is committed by an older person’s own family members, most often their adult children, followed by grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and others. (Wow, this is really sad!)

Their top 10 list of senior scams:

For more details on each, go to: Top 10 Senior Scams

  1. Health Care / Medicare / Health Insurance Fraud
  2. Counterfeit Prescription Drugs
  3. Funeral & Cemetery scams
  4. Fraudulent Anti-Aging Products
  5. Telemarketing
  6. Internet Fraud
  7. Investment Schemes
  8. Homeowner / Reverse Mortgage scams
  9. Sweepstakes and Lottery scams
  10. The Grandparent scam

Also, consider contacting your local Better Business Bureau for senior scams  in your area, and how they can be avoided.  Make sure to place your elderly loved one’s phone number on the National “Do Not Call” Registry. Registry

While scammers still do call, it is done less frequently.  Remind them your number is on the “Do Not Call” list.

Julie

Read Julie Hall’s bio here and find other articles by Julie in the Estate Planning section of our library.

Please do your research, and do everything in your power to protect your loved one!

Crooks Two-Timing Timeshare Owners & Jennifer Kirk Pleads Guilty of Telemarketing Scam

By Florence Klein -

Timeshare scams are on the rise as corrupt companies and individuals swindle timeshare owners across the nation out of millions of dollars. Dishonest operations promise to sell or rent the owner’s timeshare with no intention of doing either.

Jennifer Kirk of New Jersey, and formerly Florida, was sentenced this January having pled guilty to criminal information that alleged that she operated Universal Marketing Solutions and later Creative Vacation Solutions in Palm Beach County, Florida between October 2007 and December 2009. It is alleged that these telemarketing companies had employees cold call timeshare owners and falsely represent that they had buyers interested in the owner’s timeshare. Then the companies would collect upfront fees. The allegations claim fees were collected from 22,000 victims but the companies made no successful timeshare sales.

This is how the scam typically runs. The timeshare owner gets an unsolicited, uninvited and unexpected phone call or email offering the opportunity to make a fast sale or enter a lucrative rental agreement. These offers come from criminals tell the owner they are sales representatives for a timeshare resale or rental company.

The fake sales representatives usually assure the owner a quick sale timeline like 60-90 days. Often the scam involves high-pressure tactics and forced urgency. Owners report being told of an impatient buyer waiting to hear back immediately, waiting on another line or sitting there with the fraudster! They may even offer to put the eager buyer, a partner in on the crime, on the line to speak with the owner.

Once the timeshare owner takes the bait the false sales representative informs the victim of the upfront fees they need to pay. Owners are told the fees cover everything from listing fees and advertising expenses to closing costs. Many victims pay up with credit cards or wire the money to the crooks.

Once the scammers have the money in hand they and any company they fronted becomes elusive, evasive or just vanishes. Phone calls do not get answered or the number is disconnected and website become inaccessible or disappear.

Sometimes the crooks try to double-time the victim. After the sting of the original rip off, some owners receive a call or email from a phony fraud recovery operation.

This fake company offers assistance to the owner in recovering the money lost in the timeshare sales scam. The recovery company representative explains the process and, you guessed it, tells the owner that the company requires an up-front fee for their services. Some of the false companies claim there is no fee unless the lost money is recovered. In the later case, money is reportedly recovered and a check will be sent as soon as the owner wires the fee amount to the company. Once the fees are paid, the recovery company, like the sales company, disappears leaving the owner with an even greater loss.

The FBI and the IC3 have identified cases where the crooks involved with the recovery company have a connection to the resale company. So the same fraudsters likely have scammed some timeshare owners twice.

If you own a timeshare and are contacted with an unsolicited offering to sell or rent your timeshare use extreme caution. Follow these tips to avoid being a victim of a sales or recovery scam:

  • Be wary of any company asking for up-front fees to sell or rent your timeshare
  • Read all the fine print of any sales contract or rental agreement provided and check with a lawyer if you have any questions or doubts
  • Check with the Better Business Bureau to ensure the company is reputable

Remember: If an offer sounds too good to be true, it usually is!

If you believe you have been a victim of this type of scam, or know someone who has, promptly report it to the IC3′s website at www.IC3.gov. The IC3′s complaint database links complaints together and refers them to the appropriate law enforcement agency for case consideration.

Stay Safe,
Florence

Sources

Easiest Security Tip of the Year: Do Not Use Password as a Password!

by Florence Klein

This is the time of year when many aspects of the past year get looked over. We are in the “Year in Review” phase for 2011. It is a good time to see where we have been and look ahead to where we want to go. Beefing up our cyber security is one good area to start with and for many a simple boost is available: Get yourself better passwords.

A number of websites are publishing the worst passwords used for year 2011. What makes them the worst? One, they are common. Two, they are easy to hack.

According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) report for 2011 the lack of secure passwords being may be a factor in data breaches — past, present, and future. If a scam artist gets at some of your personal account information and can guess a simple password, your account is theirs.

One reason for poor passwords and the resulting lack of security stems from the ever-growing number of passwords we are required to have. We now need to remember passwords to access email, bank accounts, online shopping carts and more. Some of us need access to databases, applications, multiple home and or work networks, etc. on a daily basis.

Creating strong passwords and remembering them may seem like a chore but it is nothing compared to recovering your identity or assets. There is help as well. Random password generators are available online or as memory stick portable apps. These tools create high security passwords and recall them for you. You will need a master password to gain access your password database but they will all be safe if you crate a strong master password.

Now to the list of the 2011 top 25 most common, most stolen passwords. The ones you do not want to use

  1. password
  2. 123456
  3. 12345678
  4. qwerty
  5. abc123
  6. monkey
  7. 1234567
  8. letmein
  9. trustno1
  10. dragon
  11. baseball
  12. 111111
  13. iloveyou
  14. master
  15. sunshine
  16. ashley
  17. bailey
  18. passw0rd
  19. shadow
  20. 123123
  21. 654321
  22. superman
  23. qazwsx
  24. michael
  25. football

Stay safe, change your password,

Florence Klein

Gift Cards Face Online Ripoff

by Florence Klein -

Don’t let gift card theft rob you of the holiday cheer you gave or received. Gift card number fraud gets at the money put on a gift card after it is purchased but before the real owner can put it to use.

December is full of holidays, Pearl Harbor Day, Christmas, New Years Eve, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, Forefathers Day, just to name a few, and I am sure I missed some. Many of these days include gift exchanges. We do enjoy getting and giving gifts. It lets others know we are thinking of them and want to share our warm feelings with them.

Sometimes our challenge comes from knowing how to share or what to give. Gift cards can come to the rescue but crooks have come up with ways to get the gift you meant for someone else.

Gift card number theft is when the gift card number gets lifted from the card by a scammer before it is purchased. A thief goes into a store where access to the gift cards is not controlled. The crook copies down gift card numbers. They can use a pencil and paper but with technology being what it is today they are more likely to photograph it with a phone or use a scanning device.

The thief uses this information later after the card has been activated. To find out, the crook waits a while and then calls the retailers card helpline. Once they find out the card is active, they ask about the remaining balance.

Next the scammer starts using the card. The thief goes online, buys the items they want, and pays for it with the gift card number they took from the card you gave or received. After they spend your gift card, you have no way to get the money back.

How can you prevent this scam? Start with buying cards that have not been tampered with. Cards on cardboard stock should not have any look of being tampered with. If the card itself has scratches on it, pass it by and get a fresher one. Ask a sales clerk for one that has not been put on display.

If you get a card as a gift, go online and register it. Often you can set a security code to prevent unauthorized use. Lastly, don’t let them sit around, get your gift sooner and enjoy it longer!

If you do run into one of these scams, you can report it here: scam, crime or fraud:
FBI – Submit an Anonymous Tip Online
FBI - Contact your local field office
ICCC - Internet Crime Complaint Center

Stay safe and have a Happy New Year,
Florence Klein

Sources

Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words? How About Your Identity?

by Florence Klein - 

Identity theft is when someone steals your personal information for their own gain. It can be confusing and costly in terms of your time and money. Medical identity theft accounts for up to three percent of all identity fraud according to a 2009 Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report. Medical identity thieves use your stolen information to get medical treatment or defraud medical insurance companies with false claims in order to get payment.

Either case will leave you holding the bag to repair the damage done to your name, credit and medical records. The most damage may be done to your medical history. A thief who gets treatment under your id could impact your ability to get medical benefits and impact medical decisions doctors make in treating you later on. This can have serious consequences if not discovered and corrected.

In today’s world of electronic health records (EHRs), are there ways to eliminate medical identity fraud? There is debate on this. The FTC’s believes patient photos can help prevent in fraud and have this in their Red Flag Rules for business. The idea is that if providers rigorously check identifications there will be a significant decrease in fraud. Patients have the ability to opt out of having photos attached to their EHR.

There are groups opposed to the addition of photos to EHRs on the grounds of patient privacy. Others feel that the added photos increase the chances of identity theft.

Allowing photos to be part of your EHR is a personal choice. No matter if you choose to have a id photo included with you EHR or not, there are steps you should take to keep you identity safe. You can follow the outlines below to keep yourself and loved ones safe.

Medical Identity Theft warning signs:

  • Bills for medical services you didn’t receive
  • Debt collectors contacting you about medical debt you do not owe
  • A copy of your credit report shows medical collection notices you don’t recognize
  • Legitimate insurance claims are declined and your health plan says you’ve reached your limit on benefits
  • You are denied insurance because your medical records show a condition you don’t have

Preventing medical identity theft is no easy task but there are steps you can take reduce your risk of becoming a victim. These tips come from the FTC:

  • Verify sources before sharing information. Do not give personal or medical information on the phone or through the mail unless you initiated the contact and are sure you know who you are dealing with.
  • Avoid “free” health services or products from providers who require you to give them your health plan ID number.
  • Safeguard your medical and health insurance information. Keep all copies of your medi­cal and health insurance records secure, whether they’re on paper in a desk drawer or in a file online. Ask why any sensitive personal information is needed and how it will be kept safe, and whether it will be shared before giving it out. Read and understand all website privacy policies before using them and putting any information on them.
  • If you decide to share your information online, look for indicators that the site is secure, like a lock icon on the browser’s status bar or a URL that begins “https:” (the “s” is for secure). Remember that email is not secure.
  • Treat your trash carefully. Shred your health insurance forms and prescription and physician statements to thwart a medical identity thieves who may pick through your trash or recycling bins to capture personal and medical information. It is also a good idea to destroy the labels on your prescription bottles and packages before you throw them out.

If you believe you are a victim of medical or any other type of identity fraud, contact the FTC on their identity theft site.

Happy Holidays,
Stay safe,

Florence Klein

Sources

If the Shoe Fits, Buy It – for the Right Reasons

by Florence Klein –

Reebok to pay $25 million in consumer refunds settling FTC charges of deceptive advertising of Easy Tone and RunTone shoes and apparel.

Seems everyone wants to improve his or her fitness. It also appears there are plenty of companies eager to help us do just that. May be some companies are a little too eager to help. Shoppers should look out for companies that offer too much of a good thing. Overhyped advertising claims aim to win your purchasing dollars without delivering fully on claims. The FTC takes action to help and Reebok will pay $25 million in consumer refunds to settle FTC charges of deceptive advertising of Easy Tone and RunTone shoes.

Getting fit for the holidays ahead sounds like a good idea for many of us. Lots of people tend to take on a pound or two over the season when it may be harder to get out for a walk and rich foods are abundant and easy to get at. Getting more exercise time in can help us all. Having the right equipment helps us get out there and can make us feel better while exercising. A good walk is one of the best exercises around and many, many people recommend it. All you need is a good pair of shoes (and a place to walk).

The FTC alleged that Reebok used unsupported advertising claims in printed, online, radio, and television ads. The FTC claimed that Reebok statements of extra toning, shaping and strengthening gains of an extra 25% in your buttocks and 11% for your hamstrings and calves over other shoes were not supported by any research. The FTC also alleged that claims of improved posture were unsupported.

Reebok has taken action to remove the advertising from the market place. Under the settlement with the FTC, Reebok is banned from claiming:

  • Toning shoes or other toning apparel effectively strengthen muscles or result in a specific extra percentage of muscle toning unless the claims are true and backed by scientific evidence
  • Any health or fitness-related bonus efficacy unless they are true and backed by scientific evidence

So what is the scoop on other brands of toning shoes? Well, “Toning” shoes are shoes that purportedly provide extra health and fitness benefits that other shoes do not. These shoes usually claim they add extra toning and strengthening of the muscles in the lower body. Toning shoes are often described as the newest, greatest footwear trend. While traditional athletic shoes are designed to provide the wearer with support, toning shoes are designed to create slight instability.  The companies offering toning shoes generally claim that the instability of the shoe causes muscles to work harder to stabilize, resulting in greater training effect. Most companies do not put specific numbers on their claims or make statements of scientific tests. So it is up to each of us to decide if we want to trust any of the claims made.

The FTC works to see that every exact claim made has an exact proof backing it up. We join with the FTC in urging you to shop smart. Here are some tips to help you choose wisely when it comes to exercise equipment. Remember what gets the exercise done is your effort, not how you’re geared up while working out. Here is what to watch out for:

  • Promises of problem spot reductions because losing weight in one problem area requires regular exercise that works the whole body
  • Promises to effortlessly burn a spare tire or melt fat from hips and thighs, they do not work
  • Consider how the product fits your fitness goals do not stock your home with equipment you will not use
  • Test equipment before you buy it
  • Check advertised prices, as final cost may be greater: ask about refund policies, restocking fees or how much it might cost to send something back

If you shop smart, and set up a good exercise plan, your exercise equipment will help you meet your fitness goals.

Stay safe,
Florence Klein

If you bought a pair of the Reebok shoes in question follow this link to apply for a refund and see if you are eligible.

Sources

Cyber Monday Crackdown Helps Keep Shoppers Safe

by Florence Klein

Our government shut down 150 website domains for Cyber Monday to keep online shoppers safe. This marks the largest domain name seizure to date by our government as part of “Operation In Our Sites”. Operation In Our Sites aims to prevent and stop the selling of counterfeit goods and pirated products. Last year’s domain crackdown closed 82 portals to illegal profits by fraudsters.

Operation In Our Sites is a cyber space enforcement group headed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) in a joint effort with the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center), the Department of Justice and the FBI. The operation started with a June 2010 launch and since then the IPR Center has seized a total of 350 domain names in eight waves of shutdowns.

You can read the list of 150 domains in the ICE Fact Sheet “Websites seized during the eighth phase of Operation In Our Sites.” Looking these over can give you an idea of the types of names to be cautious of. You may note that many of them are in reference to very popular gift ideas including professional sports jerseys, golf equipment, DVD sets, footwear, handbags and sunglasses, representing a variety of trademarks from online retailers.

Does this crackdown mean you can go online and shop with out worry? No it does not. However, knowing that there are more sites like these on the Internet should help raise your awareness and help you navigate shopping the web with more care.

So what should you watch for? Follow these tips from the US-CERT (United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team). You may have heard them before but they bear repeating:

  • Maintain up-to-date antivirus software.
  • Do not follow unsolicited web links in email messages.
  • Use caution when opening email attachments.
  • Ignore and delete screensavers or other forms of media that may contain malware.
  • Decline and delete unsolicited credit card applications that may be phishing scams or identity theft attempts.
  • Do not follow online shopping advertisements because they may be phishing scams or identity theft attempts from bogus retailers.
  • Make sure that you are interacting with a reputable, established vendor before providing any personal or financial information.
  • Take advantage of security features by using passwords and other security features that add layers of protection.
  • Check privacy policies before providing personal or financial information; check the website’s privacy policy. Make sure you understand how your information will be stored and used.
  • Make sure your information is being encrypted on safe sites that use SSL, or secure sockets layer, to encrypt information. Indications that your information will be encrypted include a URL that begins with “https:” instead of “http:” and a padlock icon.
  • Use a credit card because there are laws to limit your liability for fraudulent credit card charges, and you may not have the same level of protection for your debit card.
  • Check your statements and keep records of your purchases and copies of confirmation pages. Compare these documents to your bank statements. If there is a discrepancy, report it immediately.
Report suspected Internet scams to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, visit the IC3 complaint page to get started.

Stay safe,
Florence Klein

Sources

Follow Me on Facebook but Not Too Close Please

by Florence Klein -

Facebook settles over FTC privacy issues charges. If you have a Facebook or other social network account, you should check your privacy levels to be sure your private information is and stays private.

Facebook has reached an agreement with the Federal Trade Commission to settle charges surrounding allegations of deceiving consumers. The FTC complaint concerns the availability of user private information. The FTC alleged that Facebook deceived users by telling them their private information could be kept private on Facebook and then repeatedly allowing it to be shared and made public.

The FTC filed an eight-count complaint against Facebook alleging that they deceived consumers by failing to keep privacy promises. This FTC Complaint is part of the agency’s effort to ensure that companies follow privacy policies and promises made to consumers. The complaint against Facebook alleges that the claims made by the company were unfair, deceptive and in violation of federal law.

The settlement reached this week requires Facebook to live up to its privacy promises in the future. Facebook is required to give consumers clear and prominent notice, and obtain the consumers’ express consent before sharing private information beyond the privacy settings established by the consumer.

The eight complaints listed by the FTC in which Facebook allegedly made promises that it did not keep are:

  1. In December 2009, Facebook changed its website so certain information that users may have designated as private – such as their Friends List – was made public. They didn’t warn users that this change was coming, or get their approval in advance.
  2. Facebook represented that third-party apps that users’ installed would have access only to user information that they needed to operate. In fact, the apps could access nearly all of users’ personal data – data the apps didn’t need.
  3. Facebook told users they could restrict sharing of data to limited audiences – for example with “Friends Only.” In fact, selecting “Friends Only” did not prevent their information from being shared with third-party applications their friends used.
  4. Facebook had a “Verified Apps” program & claimed it certified the security of participating apps. It didn’t.
  5. Facebook promised users that it would not share their personal information with advertisers. It did.
  6. Facebook claimed that when users deactivated or deleted their accounts, their photos and videos would be inaccessible. But Facebook allowed access to the content, even after users had deactivated or deleted their accounts.
  7. Facebook claimed that it complied with the U.S.- EU Safe Harbor Framework that governs data transfer between the U.S. and the European Union. It didn’t.
  8. The proposed settlement bars Facebook from making any further deceptive privacy claims, requires that the company get consumers’ approval before it changes the way it shares their data, and requires that it obtain periodic assessments of its privacy practices by independent, third-party auditors for the next 20 years.

The proposed settlement with Facebook specifically:

  • Bars Facebook from making misrepresentations about the privacy or security of consumers’ personal information
  • Requires Facebook to obtain consumers’ affirmative express consent before enacting changes that override their privacy preferences
  • Facebook must prevent anyone from accessing a user’s material more than 30 days after the user has deleted his or her account
  • Requires that Facebook establish and maintain a comprehensive privacy program designed to address privacy risks associated with the development and management of new and existing products and services, and to protect the privacy and confidentiality of consumers’ information
  • Insists that within 180 days, and every two years after that for the next 20 years, that Facebook obtain independent, third-party audits certifying that it has a privacy program in place that meets or exceeds the requirements of the FTC order, and to ensure that the privacy of consumers’ information is protected
  • Allows the FTC to monitor compliance with the order with standard record keeping provisions

So what information do you want to keep private on a social networking site and how do you know if you information is safe? First, remember any information you put on the Internet has the potential of becoming public. This means any information that can be used to identify you personally should be shared with caution. Social Security Numbers, phone numbers, addresses, bank and other financial account numbers should only be shared on a need to know basis on secure websites (like bank, credit union and investment firm sites you trust). This information can allow crooks to steal you identity and money.

Sharing family photos, vacation plans, school locations and other social activities with the wrong people can set you up for spam, phishing schemes and scams. It is best to share this information only with people you know and trust and not the whole World Wide Web.

So play it safe and keep your social networking privacy settings on the high side of things.

To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).

Stay Safe,
Florence Klein

Avoiding Shopping Scams on Black Friday and Cyber Monday

by Florence Klein -

Black Friday, the traditional start of the holiday shopping season, and Cyber Monday mark two important days for retailers and gift givers. Holiday shopping takes a large leap up on the Friday and Monday following Thanksgiving. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are big for retailers but are also highly favored by scammers and fraudsters.

While more and more shoppers go online to shop, there are many who only price shop and compare features on the internet before heading to the mall to pick up the items they hope to buy. This does help avoid internet fraud but shopping at the mall has its own pitfalls. This week we join the Internet Crime Complaint Center, the FBI and the Better Business Bureau in urging you to shop safely online and in retail stores to get the best deals and save yourself time.

Planning before you start your shopping can help once you are out there in the trenches. You should create a list of what you want to look for and where you should look. Then prioritize your list for availability and location.

Think about inviting a friend or family member, yes, you can shop online together too. Having a second opinion often helps and waiting in line with a friend make the time pass quicker. A second shopper also gives you the option to divide and conquer!

The following tips can help you with your shopping on Black Friday:

  • Know what you are looking for before you go in. Collect and save ads for the items you want. Many retailers send flyers and post coupons and prices online. Take these with you.
  • Comparison and price shop online before you step into a retail store.
  • Remember to shop items and stores. Look up retailer track records online.
  • Search online for retailers alerts and discount codes for in-store use.
  • Pass on Bait and Switch false advertising. Yes, this does happen. Many shoppers fall for the lost leader ad with hard to believe prices on an item that is “sold out” by the time you get to the store. The rub is that a similar but higher priced item is available.
  • Avoid any pushy sales aimed at getting you to pay more than you intend or want to.
  • Set up any reward cards for the retailer before you shop. This can often be done online.
  • Understand return and exchange policies for yourself and the receivers of the gifts. Ask for gift receipts to include with the gifts you buy just incase.
  • Look for QR codes if you have a smart phone with a QR reader app. These codes can give you additional information on the product and on some retailers as well.
  • Don’t put your wallet or budget in jeopardy. Shop with in your means and you will gain more enjoyment from your giving.

“Cyber Monday” shopping is taking place on Black Friday now too. E-Bay is even setting up online shopping kiosks in some malls to help online shopping. No matter if you shop online Friday, Monday or any other day here are tips to keep you safe:

  • Update your computer anti-virus software (install anti-software if you do not have it now).
  • Shop on trusted sites. Check with the BBB for seller and site reputation.
  • Look for secure connections while online. (The address bar in your browser will start with https:// – http:// is not a secured site.)
  • Protect you personal information. It takes some time to find and read a site’s privacy policy but the time is worthwhile. It is far harder, and costlier, to recover your identity if it gets hijacked and your credit score if use fraudulently.
  • Avoid phishing scams. Emails claiming you order has a problem could be looking to gather information for fraud. Call the seller if you have any questions at all.
  • Paying with a credit card is the safest way. They are most secure and offer some legal protection for your purchases. You can check your purchases online at your card issuer site and on your statement. (You should do this often and question items you do not recognize.)
  • Save all the documentation for your order: confirmation page, email confirmations and order receipts.
  • Remember that if it sounds too good to be true – it most likely is!

As you can see, that is quite a list but it is better to be safe while shopping than sorry after you have been deceived or scammed. If you feel you have run across an internet scam, report it to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, visit the IC3 complaint page.

Stay safe and have a Happy Thanksgiving,

Florence Klein

Sources