GA Secretary of State warns residents about holiday scams

Inside Subprime: November 7, 2017

By Caroline Thompson

As the festive season of goodwill approaches, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp wants to make sure residents of his state don’t get scammed by fake charity ploys.

“As we approach the holiday season, Georgians begin looking for ways to lend a helping hand to those in need,” said Kemp. “Unfortunately, bad actors view this time of year as the perfect opportunity to scam well-meaning donors. Before you open your checkbook, do your homework to make sure your donation will reach the intended recipients.”

As a precaution against charity scams, Kemp recommends Georgians research the charities where they want to donate money, and make sure that they’re legitimate organizations, and that their money will be going to help people in need, not pad the pockets of scam artists. Kemp also warned against giving out credit card, debit card or bank account information over the phone, and reporting all suspicious charity activity by calling (404) 654-6021 or sending an email to charities@sos.ga.gov.

But fake charities aren’t the only holiday-season scheme to look out for this year. The Better Business Bureau has a handy list of common holiday scams to be aware of, from fake “order confirmation” emails, to phishing sites and even letters from scammy Santa! Here’s more from the BBB:

Be cautious shopping online. Because many retailers now have chip card readers, fraud at bricks-and-mortar stores is down, so scammers have shifted their efforts online. Use a credit (not debit) card online and only shop on secure websites. Look for https in the address (the extra “s” is for “secure”) and for a lock symbol.

Look-alike websites: When shopping online, make sure to use only legitimate websites. Watch out for URLs that use the names of well-known brands along with extra words.

Fake shipping notifications: These can have attachments or links to sites that will download malware on your computer to steal your identity and your passwords. Don’t be fooled by a holiday phishing scam.

E-cards: Electronic cards can be great fun, but be careful. Two red flags to watch out for are: the sender’s name is not apparent; you are required to share additional information to get the card.

Letters from Santa: Several trusted companies offer charming and personalized letters from Santa, but scammers mimic them to get personal information from unsuspecting parents. Check with bbb.org to find out which ones are legitimate.

Emergency scam: Be cautious if you get a call from a family member or friend claiming to be in an accident, arrested, or hospitalized while traveling in another country. Never send money unless you confirm with another family member that it’s true.

Phony charities: Everyone is in a generous mood at the holidays, so scammers take advantage of that with fake charity solicitations in email, on social media sites, and even by text. Check out charities at give.org before donating.

Temporary holiday jobs: Retailers and delivery services need extra help at the holidays, but beware of solicitations that require you to share personal information online or pay for a job lead. Apply in person or go to retailers’ main websites to find out who is hiring.

Unusual forms of payment: Be wary of anyone who asks you to pay for holiday purchases using prepaid debit cards, gift cards, wire transfers, third parties, etc. These payments cannot be traced and cannot be undone. Free gift cards: Pop-up ads or email offering free gift cards are often just a ploy to get your personal information that can later be used for identity theft.

Social media gift exchange: It sounds like a great deal; buy one gift and get 36 in return. But it’s just a variation on a pyramid scheme and it’s illegal.

Don’t let your holiday cheer be taken advantage of! If something seems off, don’t give it the benefit of the doubt, check it out, and if it’s suspect, report it to the BBB!

For more information about how to protect yourself from costly scams, check out these related pages and articles:


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