Watch out for gift card, tech support and other scams
It’s the season of giving. Don’t give to people trying to scam you out of your hard-earned money.
There’s just something about the holidays that makes us more generous. Scammers know this and they definitely prey on our good-natured intentions. Here are five common scams to avoid, not only this holiday season, but throughout the year:
Disingenuous gift card scams
If you ever receive a random email, text, Facebook message or a phone call out of the blue that asks for payment with a gift card – DON’T DO IT! These scammers will often ask you to purchase a gift card to Amazon, Google Play or the Apple Store and send them the code on the back. Because you’re sending a gift card code instead of cash, the money is almost impossible to trace.
The FTC states that the most common impostors for this type of scam include people claiming to be from the IRS, people claiming to be distant family members who need emergency cash and people claiming to be from utility companies who are going to shut off your water/electric/gas if you don’t make a payment.
Deceitful tech support scams
This one is way too common and we’ve personally seen it affect members. If you’re using your computer and see a popup ad saying you need to call tech support to get rid of malware or a virus, it’s a scam. This type of scam can also include phony “free security scans” and calls out of nowhere. Usually, these scammers will request access to your computer and make you pay money to regain control of your own device, claiming to find non-existent problems.
If you ever encounter a situation like this, Erika Huber, Arnold branch manager, has some advice:
“If something like this pops up on your computer, it’s most likely a virus or scam. If you’re not computer savvy, unplug it, take the battery out, call a family member or take it to a computer store. Some of these scams freeze your Mac or PC and give you an 800-number to call to get it fixed. DON’T CALL.
Sometimes if you do call and they ‘fix’ your device for you, it will run faster than before for a short amount of time. But, when this happens again, the scammer will want more information and more money. Some scammers are taking thousands of dollars from innocent victims!”
Malicious eCommerce websites
Anyone can make a website. Scammers with web design and programming skills can mock up a website that looks exactly like the websites of your favorite brands. Most often, you’ll be misled to these sites by social media posts and emails that claim to offer some sort of amazing deal or a huge percentage off. While these fake websites look like the real thing, CNBC has a list of ways you can tell if they’re legit or a scam:
- The discounts are too steep
- The website is poorly designed or written in poor English
- The domain name has extra words or mispellings
- You have to pay with a weird form of payment, like a wire transfer
- There isn’t any contact information
- No clear return policy
- You find poor reviews on Google, Yelp and other sites
Charities see a big boost in giving during the holidays. Scammers look to prey off of your generosity by creating fake charity websites (similar to fake eCommerce websites). If you receive an unsolicited email or message with a link to one of these websites, you can easily verify it as legit by conducting a report on Give.org.
You can also inspect the URL and the name of the charity to see if it is legit or if it just sounds like another, well-known organization. Finally, you should always review the website to make sure the donations are going where they claim they are going.
Bogus travel offers
Whether it’s to see family or just get away from the cold, winter is a popular time to travel. Scammers take advantage of your desire to get away in a number of different ways. Fortunately, the FTC has a list of red flags that let you know that a too-good-to-be-true offer is a scam.
- You have to pay money after you “won a free vacation.” A legit company will never ask for this, and they will never ask you to verify your prize by giving a credit card number.
- If a company cold calls, texts or emails you out of nowhere, it’s most likely a scam. If it’s a robocall, hang up immediately.
- If a company claims to be a luxury resort or a five-star experience, make sure to look it up and read reviews first.
- Don’t take a free vacation that wants you to sit through a high-pressure timeshare presentation.