’Tis the season to be jolly. But while you’re out shopping or visiting friends, enjoying your time off from work, others are hard at work trying to rip you off. The Better Business Bureau and law enforcement agencies warn that the holiday season is a prime time for scams and fraud crimes, including the following scenarios. Some are classic, old-school rip-offs, while others are on the cutting edge of cyber crime.
Counterfeit Apps Hijack Or Mimic Real Store Names
The BBB reports hundreds of fraudulent apps are now in circulation, usually promising incredible savings and deals. To make matters more confusing, many of these apps are available in the Apple Store or Google Play, and impersonate well-known retail stores. For example, the New York Times recently showed a company known as Footlocke (very similar to national athletic apparel retailer Foot Locker Inc.) offering 16 different counterfeit apps on the Apple store. Once you enter your personal information and/or a credit card, you’ve been victimized. Two things to check before downloading an app: Who is the publisher? Ideally, the retailer has published the app. Also, check out the reviews. Steer clear of any app with no reviews, or just a handful of reviews.
Beware Callers Posing as Law Enforcement
You get a phone call, and a man identifying himself as a deputy informs you that there is an outstanding warrant for your arrest for failing to report for jury duty a few months back. The deputy says he can resolve the issue by taking your credit card number over the phone to pay off the fine. One scam this holiday season in Mecklenburg County, N.C., was so convincing, the caller even used a real deputy’s name and badge number, and called from a sheriff’s department phone number. Stating the obvious here, but never give out your credit card or financial information to a caller you don’t know.
Watch Out For Fake Package-Tracking Websites
One of the hottest scams this year involves fraudulent websites offering to track package deliveries. For example, you might get an email informing you of a missed package delivery. You click on the link to their site, enter the requested information — and the scam website has enough information to hijack your computer or smartphone, or possibly even steal your identity. Many of these emails or websites use the name and appearance of legitimate shipping companies, making the scams especially convincing. UPS says these scams often involve several red flags. Bad grammar or misspellings is an easy tell. They will often include a deadline (“Act within 24 hours or package will not be delivered.”) And beware any request to make a payment before a package is delivered.
Beware Fraudulent Websites and Phishing Schemes
This is good advice any time of the year, but it’s so easy to let our defenses down during the holidays. As always, beware of “phishing” schemes designed to get you to click on an unknown link, which can download malware on your laptop or smartphone. And if you’re buying merchandise online, make sure the site is legitimate. Fraudulent websites are nothing new, but scammers keep improving their craft in making these sites seem very authentic. For example, the BBB reports one fake website that recently targeted Seattle Seahawks fans had an official-sounding name (seahawksofficialnflonline.com.) and a fake BBB seal. But these fake sites still can be detected because of their irregularities. In this case, the BBB said the site’s prices were “too good to be true.” And the site requested a Western Union or Money Gram transfer to speed up the delivery process. Be vigilant and do your homework before shopping online.