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Travis: Holiday Scams

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Denton County Sheriff Will Travis
Denton County Sheriff Will Travis

We hear a lot about phone scams nowadays, but those and many other scams become more prevalent during the holidays as the spirit of giving is all around.  Unfortunately, this also brings out more scam artists seeking to take advantage of our generosity.  Below are two of the scams you are likely to run into during the holidays and some tips about what to do if you fall victim to a scam.

Internet holiday scams:

By far the fastest-growing online holiday scam involves fake websites offering just about everything you could want for Christmas, especially those hard-to-find-gifts, at fantastic bargain prices.  Scammers will not only take your money for something they will not send, but that also allows them access to your credit card details.

Make sure you are familiar with the sites from which you order, and never click a link in an email to get to a site, even if it is one you’ve visited before.  It is far safer to type the web address of the site into your browser than to take a chance on ending up on a bogus site.  Believe the old saying, “If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.”

These sites are easy to set up and the number has mushroomed in the past year, hosted all over the world. In addition to scams, these sites can contain viruses and malware that can take over your computer, so always be sure of the site you are using.

Charity-related holiday scams:

The most likely place you’ll encounter charity scams is when they hold out a collection box to you either as you do your shopping, at your front door, or solicit donations over the phone. We had a recent example in Denton County.  We have had someone calling people claiming to be from the Sheriff’s Office and asking for donations to support the D.A.R.E. program.  We have not had the D.A.R.E. program in nearly ten years.

Scammers may wear seasonal costumes, dress in familiar uniforms, wear badges or claim to be associated with a police department or sheriff’s office, or a well-known non-profit. Scammers are not above using kids to convince you they’re genuine.

If you do not have the time to investigate the charity, do not donate.  If you want to donate to a particular organization that someone claims to be representing, simply look for their website and donate online.  Genuine representatives of these organizations will be more than happy for you to do this.

4 Tips To follow if you’ve been victimized:

  • File a police report. You can use the paperwork to prove to your bank and credit card and credit reporting companies you’ve been scammed.
  • Tell your credit card companies and bank. Contact the fraud department at your credit card company and bank immediately. You may have to close the account, or the institution may remove the fraudulent transactions.
  • Report the fraud to the three credit reporting companies. Do this as soon as possible, especially if your personal information was used to take out a new credit line, make purchases, take out loans, or anything else that could affect your credit. Each credit reporting company has a fraud unit: Equifax: (800) 525-6285; Experian: (888) EXPERIAN or (888) 397-3742; TransUnion: (800) 680-7289.
  • Gather evidence. In addition to the police report, save what you can related to the suspected fraud. Any paperwork you have such as letters/emails of solicitation, prospectuses, cancelled checks, cash receipts, receipts for cashier’s checks or money orders, bank statements, investment statements, or medical statements could help you get your money back or help you protect yourself from further victimization.
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