Attorney General Josh SteinOne of my favorite things about the holiday season is how North Carolinians’ generosity extends beyond their own families to reach neighbors in need. However, there are some who view the holidays not as a time of giving but as a time for taking—taking advantage of your generosity and taking your hard-earned money. Whether you are paying for gifts or donating to charity, taking a few precautions could save you from scam artists’ holiday tricks.When shopping ramps up, scams do too. Before typing your card number into a website’s checkout page, take a minute to make sure your transaction is safe. First, double check that the website is legitimate. Scammers design copycat websites to trick online shoppers into handing over their information. If you’ve never heard of the retailer, do some research to make sure the site is credible. Always look for the lock symbol in the URL bar to ensure that the website is secure. Make sure your internet connection is secure as well; if you’re on public Wi-Fi, wait until you get home. Finally, use a credit card, rather than debit card, to make your purchase so you can dispute a fraudulent transaction and so that thieves don’t have access to your bank account.Now that you’ve sailed over the first set of traps and made your secure purchase, the wait for delivery day begins. Thieves steal unattended packages off front porches. Tracking the progress of your shipment can help you reduce the amount of time a package sits on your porch. You can also use a different delivery address, shipping to a neighbor who is home during the day or to your workplace.While tracking your delivery is a good idea, be careful with emails claiming to provide shipping updates. Scammers exploit the anticipation we feel while waiting for a delivery by sending emails pretending to be a shipping company. These phishing emails direct consumers to phony website and lure them into sharing personal information. Look closely at delivery notifications before clicking any links; and remember, UPS and FedEx won’t ask for personal information via email.We all know the holiday season has begun when the Salvation Army bells start ringing outside grocery stores. Charitable giving is a great way to express the holiday spirit of goodwill and generosity. But like any transaction, charitable giving is susceptible to scams. Luckily, many groups provide resources to help you verify the work of an organization you wish to support. Do your research before you give and make sure you know the exact name of the organization you choose. Often, phony charities will pick names that sound like familiar, reputable charities. Rather than responding to random solicitations, consider giving to charities you are familiar with personally and whose work and benefits you can see in your local community.Scammers are everywhere trying to steal your money but understanding the risks can help you and your loved ones avoid falling victim.
During the season of giving, help us protect your wallet and your holiday cheer.For more tips on how to avoid holiday scams, visit ncdoj.gov/dontgettaken. If you think you or someone you know has been scammed or contacted by a scammer, let us know by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or filing a complaint online at www.ncdoj.gov.Happy holidays!