Scam artists active during holiday season


With just 12 days until Christmas, many people are in the holiday rush to get things done. That makes you the perfect target for a holiday rip-off.

There was a time when all we had to worry about was someone at our door trying to solicit donations to a suspicious charity. Now, scam artists are armed with all sorts of methods aimed at stealing your money - and that includes technology.

Consumer experts say "goal one" in protecting yourself is common sense. For starters, while in stores keep track of your credit cards, especially if you swipe it at the check out counter.

With gift cards, pay attention to the amount posted on the card and read the card for a possible expiration date. Don't fall for fake retailer emails, even from well-known stores. Crooks can make the email from your favorite store look like the real thing.

Knowing the next scam is just around the corner or waiting in your email inbox, many consumers are already playing it smart.

"Be smart and pay attention. Check your credit report; I do that once a year. Check your balances, your statements. Make sure everything is the way it should be," said Steve Bernas, Better Business Bureau.

"You can be scammed in many ways in the retail environment, as well as the online world. There have been people that have been scammed in stores of identity theft. The salesperson will take your credit card and swipe it through another machine obviously your identity is stolen at that particular point," he explained.

When donating to a charity or non-profit, do your research so you know where every one of your dollars is going. Charity Navigator or the Better Business Bureau are good places to start.

Abby Kuzma is director at Indiana's Consumer Protection Division.

"If you see a deal that is too good to be true, it probably is," she said.

Kuzma says the top three scams they are dealing with are online shopping scams, donations to fake charities and emails and text message phishing, many times offering you money or a prize.

"That is a scam and in fact they are just fishing for your information. That can be either a text, email or over the phone," she said.

Telephone scams are what Tamra Simpson sees most working with the Senior Medicare Patrol. They warn seniors every day about scam artists.

"They don't have that extra income to give away to people so definitely, they need to be the ones who are on guard especially this time of year," she said.