Police: Beware scammers during holiday

With 21 shopping days left until Christmas, many people will be taking to the web and shopping malls to pick up gifts. Scam artists will also be out and about this holiday season, hoping to get the hard earned cash of unsuspecting victims.

The state police are warning residents about several scams that have appeared in the recent weeks in Northern New York.

According a state police news release, several scams have been reported by citizens who have been unknowingly swindled out of money by someone trying to solicit them under false pretenses.

The first is called the “gift card scam.”

Troopers said the scam targets elderly victims who receive a call from a person portraying their son, stating he’s in jail and needs bail money. The caller requests that the bail money be sent in the form of Target Gift Cards (Although Visa Vanilla Gift Cards are also being requested by scammers).  The gift cards are reportedly sent to an address outside New York, but were, within minutes, cashed in an entirely different location.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, similar scams can be run online via “phishing emails,” trying to get people to give out personal information or asking people to give out credit card number or checking account numbers.

The FTC states that other gift card scams may see people asking for iTunes and Amazon Gift Cards or money orders as payment for items while shopping online.

“Scammers ask you to pay in ways that let them get the money fast — and make it nearly impossible for you to get it back,” The FTC states in a news release. “If you’re doing any holiday shopping online, know that credit cards have a lot of fraud protection built in.”

The second is the “Craigslist / eBay Motors Scam.” In this scam, the victim purchased a vehicle through an outside service (i.e. Want-Ads, Classifieds, eBay, Craigslist, Backpage). During the course of the transaction, the victim was sent an email by “eBay Motors.” Upon clicking on a link, they were then forwarded to a fraudulent webpage directing them to send either a check, or Walmart/Target gift cards, or money orders to one address. Within minutes, the money was cashed in an entirely different location.

Consumers can protect themselves by calling the friend or relative claiming to need their help to confirm whether the story is true, using a phone number known to be legitimate.

“If you aren’t able to contact the person, call other friends or family members to confirm the situation,” trooper said in the release.

According to the state police,  any member of the public who receives one of these scam calls or emails should contact the agency that has been misrepresented.

“Anyone who has been victimized should call and report the incident to their local police agency,” state police said.

Charity scams also flourish during the holidays.

According to the FTC, charity scams may refuse to provide detailed information about its mission or overhead costs and won’t provide proof that the contribution is tax deductible.

Charity scams may have names that closely resembles well known, reputable groups. They may ask for cash donations or to wire money.

The FTC says that consumers can research charities through the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch or GuideStar. The Internal Revenue Service webpage can tell consumers which organizations are eligible for tax deductible contributions.


Police offer advice

According to the state police, some safeguards to help protect you from a scam:

∫ If anyone is contacted via mail, email, or telephone, only return contact through verifiable sources:

∫ Should a bank or business call, call them back with the number from the phone book/their website that is familiar.

∫ If purchasing a car through eBay Motors, log on to the site through eBay, not an email link.

∫ If purchasing an item through Craigslist, only complete face-to-face transactions in public locations.

∫ If a police or government agency calls, call them back through the publicly listed umber, not through the number left on a message.

Troopers are cautioning the general public to never give out any information, including but not limited to name, address, credit card numbers, bank numbers, social security numbers.

“Never send money via wire transfer or purchase gift cards that many of these solicitors ask for,” troopers said in the news release.

Source: New York State Police news release

By Chad Fleck

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