Don’t Get Taken During the Season of Giving
For most of us, the holidays are full of giving, getting and goodwill. But some bad actors use the holidays to take advantage of people’s generous spirits. They frequently target members of our communities who are older and more vulnerable to scammers and con artists.
To help ensure consumers and older adults don’t get taken during the season of giving, organizations across North Carolina are joining together to raise awareness of the common scams and frauds that can occur during the holidays, and share information to help protect North Carolinians from getting scammed. Together, we can help each other enjoy the holidays without getting taken by scams and frauds.
To access holiday scams resources for Spanish-speaking communities, please click here.
Holiday Mail Scams
As we buy and mail presents over the holidays, the high volume of mail and packages provides many avenues for scammers. Our deliveries can be easy targets for thieves and con artists.
- When you’re expecting a lot of packages over the holidays, shippers will often provide us with updates on the status of our orders. Knowing this, scammers will send phishing emails pretending to be from companies like FedEx and UPS to lure us to phony webpages and get us to share personal information. Look closely at delivery notifications and email updates before you click on links or input information. And remember, UPS and FedEx won’t ask for personal information via email.
- All of those packages stacking up outside your door can be tempting for thieves. Porch poachers might steal packages from your doorstep. Consider tracking your package so you’ll know when they’ve arrived. You can also set up a different delivery address with a neighbor who is home during the day or your workplace to ensure packages are delivered safely.
- If you’re traveling for the holidays, consider having your mail held for you at the post office, so you don’t have to worry about theft and can collect all deliveries and letters at once when you return.
Holiday Shopping Scams
It’s no secret that shopping ramps up during the holidays, but scams do too. Be careful about how and where you share information, and beware of fraudulent retailers and organizations.
- Protect your personal info. It’s easy to hit the “Buy” button from anywhere when you’re on your phone or on your laptop. But be sure you’re not sharing personal or credit card information over public Wi-Fi. Wait until you’re on a secure network to make a purchase.
- Gift cards are a convenient gift for the holidays, but they also open the door to several scams. To ensure your gift card is protected, avoid the rack and ask for one directly from the counter.
- There may appear to be deals galore over the holidays, and many of them are on social media – but not all of them are legitimate. Carefully read reviews, look for security credentials on websites, and research unfamiliar retailers before you take advantage of a discount.
- Always pay by credit card and keep receipts so you can try to get refunds if there’s an issue.
- Keep an eye out for common scams in your area with the BBB Scam Tracker.
- For more frauds targeting senior citizens, visit the AARP Fraud Watch Network.
- Seniors or older adults may also be scammed by being told they can get medical equipment with very little paperwork, and that Medicare will cover the cost.
Charity and Investment Scams
As you make charitable giving and investment decisions over the holidays, there are a host of resources to help you avoid the many scammers and less-than-reputable charities and organizations asking for your money.
- Before you give, review the annual reports compiled by the NC Department of the Secretary of State Charitable Solicitation Licensing Division. Verify the organizations using sources like the NC Department of the Secretary of State, Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or GuideStar.
- Consider giving to charities you are familiar with personally, and whose work and benefits you can see in your local communities.
- Often, phony charities will pick names that sound like familiar, reputable charities. Make sure you know the exact name of the charity you’re donating to, and look them up beforehand.
- Go through the Smart Donor Checklist to ask questions that will help you determine whether or not to give to a specific charity.
- When donating to veterans’ organizations, search the VA organization or representative first to make sure they’re legitimate.
- Before making year-end investment decisions, make sure to do your research. Check multiple databases about investment opportunities, and call the Secretary of State’s Investor Hotline at 919-814-5400 or 800-688-4507. You can also browse their educational materials as you look to make investment decisions.
- Regardless of whether you’re a teacher, a senior or a member of the military, there are probably specialty investment scams directed toward you. Learn what to look for, and what to avoid, here.
- Review this list of investment frauds directed at seniors with the seniors in your family. Be sure they know to be on the lookout for scammers with these false claims.
- Additional Investment Resources:
Scammers take advantage of trust between family members and loved ones, and the threat of law enforcement. When anyone is demanding money from you, be sure to ask questions to determine whether the situation is real or a scam.
- Be on the lookout for scams that target military personnel and their loved ones. The military grandparents scam specifically targets elderly relatives with military members.
- Grandparent scammers pretend to be family members or loved ones, desperate for money after an accident or serious situation. These con artists will prey on your emotions – be sure to check the story out first, and reach out to other loved ones to help confirm the claim. Don’t be taken by their demands for money or assistance.
- Kidnapping scams are also on the rise – scammers will contact you and claim they have kidnapped your loved ones or a member of your family, demanding a ransom to release them.
- Jury duty scammers work year-round, claiming to be from the sheriff’s office or local law enforcement, insisting you’ve missed jury duty or a court date and demanding you pay a fine. Remember that real law enforcement officials will never call you to threaten you with arrest or demand money. Hang up immediately and report the calls to your local police department.
If you think you or someone you know might have been scammed or contacted by a scammer, report it to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or filing a complaint online at www.ncdoj.gov.
For more information on any of the organizations involved in this campaign, please visit the links below:
- North Carolina Department of Justice
- North Carolina Secretary of State
- North Carolina Department of Insurance
- North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Aging and Adult Services
- AARP North Carolina
- Better Business Bureau of Winston-Salem
- Better Business Bureau of Charlotte
- United States Postal Inspection Service