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‘Tis the season for scams

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The Nevada State Police Highway Patrol on Monday reported that scammers have been calling residents and asking for personally identifiable information. Handing that information out over the phone to an unsolicited caller is a no-no. 

NSP officials said they aren’t making the calls, and people shouldn’t hand over their information to the callers. They said if you do get a call to report it to their Carson City Headquarters at 775-687-5300.

Such scams are common, as are others during the holidays. Last year’s holiday fraud was puppy scams.

Officials with the Federal Bureau of Investigations said that the agency sees an increase in calls to report scams in the first few months of the year, suggesting a connection between those scams and the holidays. 

The two most common holiday season scams the FBI investigates are non-delivery and non-payment crimes, which last year cost consumers about $337 million. The non-delivery scam is where a shopper pays for an item purchased online but the item is never received. The non-payment crime is the opposite, where an item is shipped but the buyer never pays. 

Other seasonal scams include spoofed websites where a major brand is imitated and “sales” are processed. The scammer’s goal is to harvest credit card information from unsuspecting shoppers. 

Charity scams have been in play for years, too, with email marketers or telemarketers using end-of-year donation collection as a cover to scam donors out of cash. Their “charity” doesn’t exist. 

Experts say there are a number of ways to protect oneself from scams. Here are their tips for spotting and avoiding them:

  • Huge discounts and too-good-to-be-true offers from unfamiliar websites can be the sign of a scam. 
  • Typos, misspellings or other errors on websites, social media accounts and item descriptions are common on scam listings. 
  • Unsolicited emails that offer shipping information or ask you to click a link or download an app for delivery details or to update your username and password could be phishing scams. 
  • Unsolicited calls where they ask for your personal information are overly pushing in asking for a donation are also likely to be fraudulent. 
  • Check each website’s URL to make sure it’s legitimate and secure, including https in the web address. If it doesn’t, don’t enter your information on that site.  
  • If you’re purchasing from a company for the first time, do your research and check reviews.
  • Verify the legitimacy of a buyer or seller before moving forward with a purchase. If you’re using an online marketplace or auction website, check their feedback rating. Be wary of buyers and sellers with mostly unfavorable feedback ratings or no ratings at all.
  • Avoid sellers who act as authorized dealers or factory representatives of popular items in countries where there would be no such deals.
  • Be wary of sellers who post an auction or advertisement as if they reside in the U.S., then respond to questions by stating they are out of the country on business, family emergency, or similar reasons.
  • Avoid buyers who request their purchase be shipped using a certain method to avoid customs or taxes inside another country.
  • Never wire money directly to a seller and do not pay using pre-paid gift cards. 
  • Check your credit card statements regularly and notify your card issuer if you see fraudulent activity. 

Sources: AARP, FBI

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