Protect yourself from holiday scams

‘Tis the season for holiday scams! We share some helpful tips on common scams and how to protect yourself.

Shopping Online

The two most prevalent scams when shopping online: 

  1. Non-delivery scam where a buyer pays for goods or services they find online, but those items are never received, and
  2. Non-payment scam involves goods or services being shipped, but the seller is never paid.

What to Do

  • Call your credit card company or you bank. Dispute any suspicious charges.
  • Report the scam to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at ic3.gov and Contact NC Attorney General’s Office 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or file an online complaint
  • Use good cybersecurity hygiene:  DON’T click on links in emails, websites, or social media.  Go directly to the website yourself from a browser like chrome or edge.

Be Careful How You Pay for Items Online or By Phone

Never wire money directly to seller or load money onto “pre-paid” gift cards.  This is how scammers typically want payment and the money is often not recoverable.  Use a credit card or protected bank debit card if you do not have a credit card, check statements, dispute with your bank.  Gift cards are to give for gifts, not to make payments to another.

Phony package delivery notices

Scammers know people receive unexpected packages this season and will send realistic-looking delivery failure notifications so you’ll follow up and reveal personal info. Before you hand over information on the internet, head to your local post office or call the delivery service to verify the notification.  These notices can be by fake email or door hangers. 

Fake charities

These crop during major disasters and around the holidays. Leaflets and phone calls from organizations with familiar-sounding names will ask you to open your wallets for a good cause. To be safe, don’t give to any charity with whom you didn’t start the contact.  Check legitimacy through the North Carolina Secretary of StateCharity Watch, or Charity Navigator.

Robo-calls

Hang up or don’t answer!  If you do not recognize the number, let it go to voicemail, you can call back. Scammers use robo-calls to pitch holiday goods, fake products, work-from-home schemes and insurance scams. 

Avoid Social Security and IRS scams.

The government will not call and threaten you, ask for your Social Security number, bank account, or credit card number. Anyone who does is a scammer.  Don’t “verify” your number or be scared into thinking your benefits are about to be suspended.  Hang up and contact SSA, IRS or other government agency directly yourself. 

Beware of “person in need” and grandparent scams.

Scammers pose as a grandchild, friend or relative stranded or otherwise in trouble and need money quickly and quietly.  They may ask for money by mail or gift card.  Don’t be pressured, hang up and call another relative or friend if you are still concerned to help you investigate.

Old school pickpocketing

Crowded malls and shopping centers are havens for pickpockets. To combat this threat, it’s best to wear purses across the body and wallets in front pockets or inside a closed jacket. Consider leaving the house with the bare minimum, like your ID and debit or credit card (the latter which offer fraud protection and security features not available with cash).

Be cautious of any unsolicited door-to-door sales pitch or offers. 

Don’t sign or agree to anything on the spot – if an offer seems too good to be true it probably is. 

The more you and loved ones know about scams, the easier it is to spot and avoid them. If you need help, contact the Advocacy Center’s Consumer Protection Team for more information.