How to avoid the biggest scams this Christmas - Metro US

How to avoid the biggest scams this Christmas

The puppy scam is trending this year.
Creative Commons

‘Tis the season to be taken advantage of.

Between November and December 2016, Americans will spend approximately $800 billion, the National Retail Federation predicts.

Add to that tens of billions of dollars lost on scams: E-cards loaded with malware, phony charities, credit card skimmers — and even fake puppies. And a variety of new shopping and payment apps such as Venmo, an app for sending and receiving payments, make victims out of otherwise savvy people.

Because Venmo confirms money transfers instantly, it can be misleading as bank transactions can take days to clear, and in the meantime, a victim could have sent out the goods or done a service before actually getting the money — which would never come.

One rampant scheme this year is the shipping phish — an email telling you there’s been an error with a shipment and that you need to confirm some information for it to be completed. Adding another layer of fraud is that the email contains a link to a bogus website.

“Amazon emails that lead to a fake site or offer coupons and sales have been particularly big this year,” Steven Weisman, Bentley University law professor and founder of the Scamicide blog, told Metro.

Making matters worse, he said, is that people are shopping on their phones using public Wi-Fi as it makes for easy hacking.

“People don’t take the same security precautions they do on a computer and don’t have security software installed, or a password,” he said. Websites and apps continue to run unknowingly, and there’s often less control over cookies and background data.

Also trending this year: the puppy scam.

“It looks like you’re going to an American Kennel Club approved seller, and people are paying for a dog to get shipped but they never get the dog,” Weisman said. He added that often the site will take a photo from somewhere else. You can find the real source using Google’s Inside Search tool.

Weisman said a big one for the holidays is the gift card drain: Scammers go into a store and scan the pin and card numbers off of the rack of gift cards, and then check online when the card is sold and activated, when it’s then possible to make online purchases.

“Only buy gift cards from behind the counter,” he advised.

Be a conscientious swiper.“Strip cards are particularly vulnerable to these days because of skimmers. New Yorkers are at a high risk for skimmers,” as the ATMs around the city can easily be fitted with the information skimming devices fitted on the outside or hidden on the inside.

Weisman’s final words of wisdom: Using a debit card to shop is a big mistake, as the liability laws won’t cover fraud if you don’t report it right away, and in the meantime you’ll be locked out of your checking account as they investigate. Credit cards have liability protection. Furthermore —chip cards are much safer than strip cards, because they change the account number with each transaction, so any intercepted info is useless.

Better Business Bureau lists the top scams for the 2016 holiday season:

1. Look-alike websites

2. Fake shipping notifications

3. E-cards with malware

4. Send a letter from Santa

5. Loved-one in need

6. Phony charities

7.Temporary holiday jobs

8. Unusual forms of payment

9. Free gift cards

10. Social media gift exchanges

11. Puppy scams

12. Fake coupons

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