How to Detect Holiday Scams
This information is provided courtesy of the Sussex County Prosecutor's Office.
Updated October 29, 2019
With the holiday season upon us, retailers and consumers aren't the only ones getting ready. Scammers are already at work to maximize their profits during the busy weeks ahead. Keep a close watch on your money and your data by familiarizing yourself with these 5 seasonal scams that can wreck your holidays—and beyond.
1. Travel scams
There's a good chance you've already begun looking for holiday travel deals, but it's essential to only book your trip with reputable websites. Rather than give in to temptation and click on a suspicious ad, you can check out sites like Kayak.com, Google Flights, or Yapta that help you track the best time to buy or inform you of significant price changes. Also, remember that if there's any flexibility in your travel dates, you can find even better savings.
2. Online shopping scams
Black Friday is fast approaching, but news reports of the chaos—and even some upsetting behavior by shoppers—make staying home and searching for specials online very appealing. The Internet is great for knocking out your gift list. But bogus websites that claim to have this year's "hot toy" in stock are often malicious links that install harmful software on your computer, identity theft attempts that record your usernames and passwords, and other scams.
Make sure any site where you shop contains an HTTPS security designation, and make sure your antivirus software is up-to-date before the big shopping day. Limit your shopping to known websites that have a trusted reputation for customer service.
3. Email scams
Once your shopping is done, you're not out of the woods. Some common email scams work by "spoofing" a major-name website like Amazon or PayPal. It's a safe bet you have an account, so scammers send you an email stating that something is wrong with your order.
Reacting to the panic of not having your gifts arrive in time, you click the link to resolve the issue, only to install malicious software on your computer in the process. Never click a link you weren't expecting; instead, go directly to that company's website yourself and login to look for problems.
4. Employment scams
Who couldn't use a little extra cash at the end of the year? A lot of companies rely on seasonal workers to help fill in during the holidays, and there are plenty of scams that try to steal your identifying information by offering you ridiculously easy jobs. Remember, you will never have to turn over your identifying information during the job hunt, so keep that data private until you've been hired.
5. Charity scams
The holidays are a time to think of others, and scammers are waiting with phony charity opportunities. Whether it's collecting cash in person or social media posts that beg for support, remember to investigate a charity thoroughly before you give.
You can also save yourself the heartache—and the dip into your budget—if you donate throughout the year. Worthy organizations need your support all year long, so by giving at other times, you'll know that you've done your part without being ripped off.
How To Detect Charity Scams
The following signs should make you suspicious:
- The "charity" can't provide details about how donations are utilized.
- The caller can't provide proof (like a Federal Tax ID number) that it's a qualified charity and that your donation is tax-deductible.
- The caller pushes and pressures you to donate immediately.
- If the caller asks you to pay in cash, gift card, and or wire money do not! This is an indicator and how scammers ask you to pay them.
- The safer way to pay is by using a credit card or check and checking the charity thru www.charitynavigator.org or the below-mentioned sites.
- It is important to practice keeping records of all your donations. Be sure you read your statement to make sure you are being charged the agreed amount and not signed up for a reoccurring donation.
- They will also try to trick you into making a donation by thanking you for a donation you have not made yet.
- Scammers can also change the caller id to make it look like a local area code.
- Scammers will also use charity names that sound very similar to the names of real ones.
- Fake organizations will claim that your donation is tax-deductible when it is not. The IRS's Tax Exempt Organization Search tells you if your donation would be tax-deductible.
- Scammers may guarantee you sweepstake winnings in exchange for a donation. This is an illegal activity. Do not fall for this scam.
Report scams to the FTC.gov/complaint . Also, find your state charity regulator at www.nasconet.org and report to them as well. Most states require the charity or its fundraiser to register to ask for donations.
Organizations that can help you research charities:
These organizations offer reports and ratings about how charitable organizations spend donations and how they conduct business:
BBB Wise Giving Alliance
Office of the Attorney General
Division of Consumer Affairs
Charities Registration Section
P.O. Box 45021
Newark, New Jersey 07101
21 Things Your Burglar Won't Tell You
- Of course I look familiar. I was here just last week cleaning your carpets, painting your shutters, or delivering your new refrigerator.
- Hey, thanks for letting me use the bathroom when I was working in your yard last week. While I was in there, I unlatched the back window to make my return a little easier.
- Love those flowers. That tells me you have taste … and taste means there are nice things inside. Those yard toys your kids leave out always make me wonder what type of gaming system they have. The most common time for burglaries is daytime.
- Yes, I really do look for newspapers piled up on the driveway. And I might leave a pizza flyer in your front door to see how long it takes you to remove it.
- If decorative glass is part of your front entrance, don't let your alarm company install the control pad where I can see if it's set. That makes it too easy.
- A good security company alarms the window over the sink. And the windows on the second floor, which often access the master bedroom and your jewelry. It's not a bad idea to put motion detectors up there too.
- It's raining, you're fumbling with your umbrella, and you forget to lock your door-understandable. But understand this: I don't take a day off because of bad weather.
- If it snows while you're out of town, get a neighbor to create car and foot tracks into the house. Virgin drifts in the driveway are a dead giveaway.
- I always knock first. If you answer, I'll ask for directions somewhere or offer to clean your gutters. (Don't take me up on it.)
- Do you really think I won't look in your sock drawer? I always check dresser drawers, the bedside table, and the medicine cabinet. Word of advice: Find secure places for your valuables.
- Here's a helpful hint: I almost never go into kids' rooms.
- You're right: I won't have enough time to break into that safe where you keep your valuables. But if it's not bolted down, I'll take it with me.
- A loud TV or radio can be a great deterrent to burglars. If you're reluctant to leave your TV on while you're out of town, you can buy a $35 device that works on a timer and simulates the flickering glow of a real television. (Find it at faketv.com.)
- Sometimes, I carry a clipboard. Sometimes, I dress like a lawn guy and carry a rake. I do my best to never, ever look like a crook.
- The two things I hate most: Loud dogs and nosy neighbors.
- I'll break a window to get in, even if it makes a little noise. If your neighbor hears one loud sound, he'll stop what he's doing and wait to hear it again. If he doesn't hear it again, he'll just go back to what he was doing. It's human nature.
- Your alarm only works if it's on. I'm not complaining, but why would you pay all that money for a fancy alarm system and leave your house without setting it?
- I love looking in your windows. I'm looking for signs that you're home, and for flat screen TVs or gaming systems I'd like. I'll drive or walk through your neighborhood at night, before you close the blinds, just to pick my targets.
- Avoid announcing your vacation on your Facebook page (and stay away from these posts, too, while you're at it). It's easier than you think to look up your address.
- Lock your windows. To you, leaving that window open just a crack during the day is a way to let in a little fresh air. To me, it's an invitation.
- If you don't answer when I knock, I'll try the door. Occasionally, I hit the jackpot and walk right in.
**Put your car keys besides your bed at night. If someone is trying to break into your house** ** hit the car key alarm button.**
Sources: Convicted burglars
8 Steps to Fight Back Against Identity Theft
Fraudsters are getting more sophisticated in their identity theft attacks, and are using more complex and difficult-to-detect monetization schemes, making identity theft that much harder to prevent and more difficult to detect.
The good news is there are plenty of ways to minimize the damage of identity theft if you act quickly and decisively.
Ways to Avoid Identity Theft
1. Frequently Review Your Credit Report/Bank Account
Step number one to avoiding identity theft is to review your credit report to see if anything unfamiliar appears on it. You can get a free credit report from each of the credit bureaus every 12 months and also get your free Experian credit report here on Experian.com .
If you're a member of Experian IdentityWorks or Experian Creditors, you can easily view your Experian credit report (along with all accounts and inquiries) and then easily dispute anything online or speak with one of our representatives.
You'll also want to review your bank accounts quite often; you can simply do this by downloading your bank's app on your mobile device. This way you can easily view all transactions on your accounts whenever you'd like.
2. Keep Personal Information Secure Offline
Limit what you carry when you go out. You're Social Security card should be kept at home at all times. Only carry identification, credit, and debit cards you will be using for that day. Destroy any documents that have your personal information on it. For example: prescriptions, receipts, credit offers, credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, checks, bank statements, expired charge cards, etc.
3. Keep Personal Information Secure Online
Describe the identity theft scenario, including timeline, as specifically as possible.
While being online you must always be alert to impersonators. Be fully aware of who you're sharing your personal information with. Don't ever give out your information on the phone, through the mail or online unless you're certain with who you're dealing with.
Being a Victim of Identity Theft
4. Place a Fraud Alert on Your Credit Report
Your first initiative in this type of scenario is to add a 90-day fraud alert to your credit report. If you contact Experian, they'll share the fraud alert with Equifax and TransUnion.
This will flag any lenders or creditors to contact you before opening any new accounts. You may also want to consider a credit freeze, but there are items to consider before freezing your credit report.
5. Report Identity Theft to the FTC
Next, go to the Federal Trade Commission's ID Theft Reporting website IdentityTheft.org to file a report. This report will document the identity theft and allow you to prove you've been the victim of identity theft and extend the fraud alert for seven years. This will also help with filing a police report or providing proof of identity theft to anyone else if needed.
After you file an identity theft report with the FTC, you'll be issued an Identity Theft Victim's Complaint and Affidavit.
The Identity Theft Affidavit asks the following questions to help solve your problem:
- What kind of identity theft are you reporting?
- Has the identity thief already used your personal data? If so, how?
- Do you know the individual who stole your identity?
Consider the following:
- What is the name and address of your bank?
- When did you first realize your identity was stolen?
- On what date did you notice any fraudulent activity?
- What's the current level of exposure of your personal data?
- Have you been contacted by a debt collector as a result of identity theft?
6. Contact Your Creditors and Financial Institutions
Let your creditors know if there were any fraudulent accounts created in your name. Also, it's helpful to let your existing lenders and banks know of the fraud so that they can be alert for any additional theft.
Review all your bank account documentation after a cyber security breach. Take a close look at all of your bank statements and use a credit monitoring service like Experian Creditors to make sure no one tries to access your credit.
7. Report the Fraud to the Appropriate State and Federal Agencies
What type of identity theft are you reporting? This dictates your actions.
|Type of Identity Theft||Who to Notify|
|Driver's License Fraud||Your State's Department of Motor Vehicles|
|Social Security Number Fraud||The FTC and U.S. Social Security Administration|
|Passport Fraud||U.S. State Department, Passport Services Department|
|Mail Theft||U.S. Postal Inspection Service|
8. Change Your Passwords
If you think/know any of your accounts have been breached, immediately change your passwords. Use complex and varied passwords for your accounts so it minimizes the chance that anyone will hack into more than one of your accounts going forward, preventing future issues.
Be Aggressive When Confronting Identity Theft
Unfortunately, repairing a damaged credit report can take several months, if not years, and may cost you hundreds of even thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses. There are additional impacts that these victims deal with, such as time and emotional distress. The takeaway? Fighting back from identity theft can involve a great deal of legwork, paperwork, and patience but it's absolutely essential to get to the bottom of what's going on in order to protect your good name.
** Information provided by Experian and the Federal Trade Commission**
15 Signs Your House Is Vulnerable to Being Robbed
- Nearly half the number of burglars enter through the front door because it is easy to access. According to a Nationwide Insurance study, one in four homeowners confess to frequently leaving the front door unlocked and half do it occasionally. Considering that the majority of burglaries happen between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., knocking on your front door allows thieves to pose as a salesman while they covertly check your doorknob. So, yes, it's obvious, but we'll say it again: Lock your door(s)!
- Setting out the box from your new 60-inch HD television or high-end gaming console on the curb is basically advertising the fact that those items are now in your home. As electronics are the second most targeted items by burglars, this makes your home a very attractive target, according to the study. Buying a cheap box cutter and investing 30 seconds to break down large boxes and bundle them together so their labels can't be seen can help decrease the likelihood of your house being targeted. Don't put cut up boxes out until your garbage is to be picked up.
- Drugs, particularly prescription painkillers, have quickly become one of the most stolen items, according to the most current FBI data. Unfortunately, both professional thieves and drug addicts know that people who are elderly or chronically ill often have lots of medication in their homes. If you are in these circumstances, it may be worth the extra precautions (like installing a good home security system) to make your house less-attractive to burglars.
- Homes in high-visibility places, like on corner lots, are far less likely to be burglarized. However, townhomes, houses in the middle of the block, or houses in a cul-de-sac are much more suitable targets. This is especially true if your property backs up to a forest, open lot, or other unguarded areas. The trick, according to Secure Life, is to make your house as difficult as possible to access. Examples of this includes installing high fences and adding additional lighting.
- First-level entry windows are the second-most common entry point for burglars. That's because it's relatively easy to break a window open. Even people who are diligent about locking their doors will often leave a window cracked open, especially in warm weather. Fortunately, this is an easy fix by using a window jam that will only allow the pane to be pushed open a few inches.
- Forty percent of people admit to posting pics while out of town, according to Nationwide. Putting your vacation pictures online notifies your friends and acquaintances that you are not home, making your house a prime target for burglars. Instead, make your social media profiles private and wait to post your vacation pictures until you get home.
- Trustworthy friends who live around you as neighbors can be your best allies in home defense, says Nationwide. You don't want to tell everyone when you're headed out of town (especially not on the internet) but you do want to tell your plans to your trusted neighbors. If you have a neighborhood watch program, they can keep an eye out for strange behavior or people they don't recognize. Also ask them to come pick up your mail and newspapers, and turn lights on and off while you're gone to make it seem like someone is present in your house. You can also notify your local police when you are going out of town so they can keep a watch on your residence.
- Certain neighborhoods are more vulnerable to certain types of crimes and that is especially true for burglaries. A quick glance at the weekly police blotter (or a quick call to your local precinct) can give you a heads up to whether cars or computers are the hot commodity in your area and then you can take specific steps to protect yours. For example, one neighborhood experienced a rash of break-ins to sheds, garages, and patios where tools were the primary items targeted. People who picked up on the pattern warned everyone to put extra security on their outdoor structures.
- Simply having an alarm system won't help you if you don't use it, and 20 percent of alarm-owners say they don't activate it during the day. Thieves will often ignore the security signs that are placed in the front yard and will try the doors and windows hoping they were left unlocked. You have to arm your alarm every time you leave your home.
- The average thief is in and out of a residence in under 10 minutes. An experienced thief can pick a regular door lock in a matter of seconds and most won't want to waste time messing with a deadbolt or other secondary lock(s). If they can't pick the lock in under a minute, chances are the next house will be easier and they'll just move on. For maximum effectiveness make sure you have the extra locks installed on all exterior doors—not just the front.
- At night, darkness is a burglar's best friend, according to Nationwide's research. Fortunately, deterring criminals banking on the cover of darkness may be as simple as turning on your outdoor lights at night. If you want to save electricity, you can install motion-activated floodlights, especially in your backyard or dark corners of your home.
- Greenery is great at protecting your privacy from prying neighbors, but it's also great at hiding burglars. Thieves specifically target homes with tall shrubs or trees that hide the front or sides of the house. Keep yours trimmed away from walls and below window height. Also, having a well-maintained yard indicates that you're vigilant about your home and are likely paying close attention to it.
- While you are out of town, have the post office hold your mail for you. It takes about two minutes online or on the phone to put a hold on your mail while you're gone. An overflowing mail box or multiple packages stacked up on your porch is one of the signs that burglars look for when looking for potential targets.
- Criminals tend to target newer neighborhoods and developments. They hope to take advantage of residents that are new to the neighborhood and might not be familiar with it. This is especially true if the area is on the wealthier side. A tight-knit neighborhood with long-standing residents, where everyone knows one another, is less likely to be targeted.
- About 50 percent of burglars say the mere presence of a dog would keep them from robbing a house but if it's clear that your home has a cat, your home could become a target. Burglars might look for windows that you keep open for the cat and assume that if you're a cat person, you're less likely to have a dog therefore making your house a bigger target. Some thieves have been known to break into a house by using the dog/cat door. If you have one, make sure it can be locked or made inaccessible from the outside.
Avoid Vacation Scams
Hotel Room Scam
You arrive at your hotel and check in at the front desk. Typically when checking in, you give the front desk your credit card for any charges to your room. You go to your room and settle in. All is good. The hotel receives a call and the caller asks for (as an example) room 620-which happens to be your room. The phone rings in your room. You answer and the person on the other end says the following: This is the front desk. When checking in, we came across a problem with your charge card information. Please re-read me your Credit card number and verify the last 3 digits numbers at the reverse side of your charge card. Not thinking anything is wrong since the call seems to come from the front desk you oblige. But actually it is a scam by someone calling from outside the hotel. They have asked for a random room number then ask you for your credit card and address information. They sound so professional, that you think you are talking to the front desk.
If this happens to you tell the caller that you will be down to the front desk to clear up any problem. Then go to the front desk and ask them if there is a problem. If there was none, inform the manager of the hotel that someone tried to scam you of your credit card information acting like a front desk employee.
OSAC (Overseas Security Advisory Council) Travel Tips
Preparing for travel abroad will result in greater safety for you and your companions.
- Find out the currency exchange rate in the country you will be visiting. 70 Indian Rupees! That's about 65 Russian Rubles or about 1 U.S. dollar in spring, 2019.
- Notify your bank and credit card issuers of your travel plans including destinations and travel dates.
- Exchange some currency at the airport in case restaurants and transportation don't take debit/credit cards.
- Carry medicines and hygiene products in your carry on in case your luggage is lost at the airport.
- Don't bring clothing with religious or political views or clothing stating where you're from.
- Bring copies of your important documents, passports, visas, licenses, hotel addresses, and embassy address.
- Bring a paper map of the country and city you will be staying in because technology might not work at your destination.
- Check with the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) for recommended vaccinations.
- Find out if your medical insurance will cover you overseas. Medicare may not!.
- Find out if your prescription drugs are legal and available in the country of your destination.
- Check the crime rate in the country/city you're traveling to.
- Stay clear of political rallies and or parades.
- Don't accept food and or beverages from strangers.
- Always be alert and aware, keep your cell phone, wallet, copies of your passport/visa in your front pockets.
- When taking transportation, discuss the price with the person in charge before you get in the vehicle.
- If you have a rental car, make sure you have the appropriate documentation (license, insurance) with you.
- Make sure your vehicle fits in with the town people; you don't want to appear as a tourist.
- Check for reviews when booking a hotel.
- Try to find a hotel near activities you want to do.
- When you get into your room, check under the beds, behind closed doors, bathrooms, etc.
- Use the safe box in your hotel room for your important belongings, visa/passports, jewelry, technology items.
- Don't bring guests back to your hotel room.
- Always lock your room, even when you are in it.
- If you travel with technology, to prevent system hacking avoid the free Wi-Fi.
- If you are detained, contact the embassy.
Additional information from:
Planning Your Trip Abroad
Posted December 28, 2018
Planning ahead will make your trip safer and less stressful. Following the steps in this brochure will help you remain safe during your time traveling.
Additional information from:
This information is provided courtesy of the Sussex County Prosecutor's Office.
Updated November 29, 2018
This is the time of year when many Americans book flights home to see family for the holidays. Before booking, one should be aware of the potential scams which involve travel. It is much easier being swindled out of personal and credit card information today than it has been in years past. Instead of going to ticket counters or calling up airlines, many people buy their tickets online out of convenience. This gets dangerous when those on the other end of the server are "phishing." Unlike the fishing that we know, phishing with a "ph", involves individuals sending emails pretending to be reputable companies, in this case airlines. They do so to get the person on the other end of the email to give up personal information which they can use in the furtherance of their criminal activities.
A major United States airline has been experiencing an ongoing scam in which criminals who claim that they work for the airline send out emails saying that the customer's credit cards have been charged for airline tickets. Because the email looks as though it is from an airline, the customer opens it. In those emails there are often attachments, and when the customer opens the attachment a virus enters their computer and takes their personal information. The airline recommends that when one realizes that this has occurred, to change the passwords on the account right away to protect their identity.
While booking online, we are often told we can get the best deals through third-party sites rather than booking directly on the airline website. However, when booking through another site, one runs a much higher risk of getting their information stolen. The best way to avoid travel scams is to book directly through the airline, hotel, or car rental website that they will be using. The reputable companies should have "https://" at the beginning of their url. If you decide to use a third-party site, be sure to use one that is reputable by reading the reviews as well as checking with the Better Business Bureau ( https://www.bbb.org/en/us ).
Call the company right after booking to confirm the reservation. If you suspect a fraud has occurred, immediately notify your local law enforcement agency. The sooner the fraud has been reported, the better.
The information is provided courtesy of the Sussex County Prosecutor's Office.
How to Avoid Charity Scams
During the holiday season, it seems as though we spend more time out shopping than in our own homes. We are at grocery stores, toy stores, clothing stores and more often today, using online retailers. When we get to the check out counter, or the check out cart for online shopping, we are often asked to donate to charities. But when we donate are we really sure what exactly we are donating to?
In recent years, scams involving charities that we have grown to trust have been scattered across headlines. These charity organizations are often accused of taking the money and only giving a small percentage to the cause, or in some cases, they do not give the money to the people they claim to help at all.
When coming upon the season of giving, be sure to make educated decisions on which charities you choose to give to. If they ask for you to wire money, pay via gift card, or give money in cash, you cannot guarantee where the money is going. Instead, when choosing to donate pay via a check or credit card so that it shows on the statement who the payment was made to. Be sure to record all donations made so that you can be aware if you are charged more than you agreed to, or if you have been signed up for a reoccurring donation.
Scammers can call over the phone and disguise the number so that it appears local on your caller ID. When talking they will often use names of real charities or names that sound like they could be charities. The scam artist might not have answers to questions on exactly how the money might be used when donated. Scammers often try to rush victims and make them feel uncomfortable so that they agree to the scam. If you feel uncomfortable with the person on the line but still want to donate to the charity, do your own research first and find if it is reputable.
If you want to know whether or not a charity is reputable, you can always check with the Better Business Bureau at (https://www.bbb.org/en/us ). Or go on https://charitynavigator.org . Charity Navigator will give the finances of the company, like how they spend their money. They will give you the accountability and transparency, and charities which are similar to it. Charity Navigator gives the charity an overall rating out of four stars based on these factors. If you feel uneasy about donating over the phone, you can donate to the organization that you wish through Charity Navigator.
Making donations to charities can be a great thing but just make sure that the charity is reputable.
This information is provided courtesy of the Sussex County Prosecutor's Office.