It's the most wonderful time of the year for thieves and scammers!
We're all crazed around the holidays trying to find that perfect gift or preparing a fabulous feast for the in-laws. And that's what thieves and scammers are counting on... that we're too distracted to notice something is wrong or don't have the time to take a few extra precautions.
People who make a living preying on others don't take a holiday break. In fact, this is their busiest time of year because it's the most lucrative.
Here are a few simple tips to help you protect your cash and other assets through the hectic holiday season:
1. Beware of porch pirates.
As online shopping continues to be an increasingly preferred way to shop during the holidays, more packages are delivered to the front door when no one is home, providing a perfect opportunity for daytime thefts. To protect yourself, either schedule deliveries when someone will be home or identify an alternative drop-off point - perhaps your place of employment or a nearby neighbor who is often home.
2. Avoid looking like no one is home.
Thousands of people travel during the holidays, leaving their homes vulnerable to thieves. If you're going to go away, take the extra steps to make it look like you're still there. Stop your mail so it doesn't pile up outside the mailbox and utilize a timer to keep holiday lights blinking in your absence.
3. Don't give thieves a reason to rob you.
The holidays are a time when many people purchase high-ticket items, such as a computer or big-screen TV. Take care to not dispose of the boxes that housed these lucrative items with your household trash, as would-be thieves often go trash trolling to keep tabs on who is getting what they want to steal.
4. Beware of charity scams.
Many people feel a special need to be giving and charitable this time of the year. But make sure you’re giving to a legitimate charity, as there are many bogus charities that solicit donations through email, text messages, phone calls and even snail mail. Only give to established charities. Or you can check charitynavigator.org to verify a charity’s legitimacy.
5. Don’t become a bait and switch victim.
Peddlers of counterfeit items do a booming business during the holidays when people shop for the most popular, high ticket items like watches, designer handbags and electronics. Beware of online auctions and Craigslist offers promising ridiculous discounts. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
6. Don’t be fooled by fake or used gift cards.
As the popularity of gift cards has grown, so have the number of scams involving them. You may receive an email or call promising you’ve won a free gift card and must send money to cover shipping and handling costs. But then the card never arrives. Another common practice is for scammers to copy gift card numbers and pins and continuously check their status online. Once the card is activated, they immediately use it to make an online purchase, rendering it void. Your best bet is to request a fresh card that has not been on display.
7. Avoid online shopping scams. It’s a great time of year to search for special deals and discounts online. But beware of offers that require you to download an app to quality for a discount, as this often allows scammers to obtain your personal information. Always make sure the business name is spelled correctly and there are no typos to weed out false offers.
8. Take extra precautions with your vehicle. Be careful not to leave your car with the keys in it while you run in for a quick errand. According to the Insurance Information Institute, New Year’s Day tops the list of most vehicle thefts by holiday. Christmas Eve is the seventh most popular holiday for vehicle thefts (according to the National Crime Bureau).
9. Take special precautions with your purse and wallet. You’re rushed to snatch that great gift item off the shelves and leave the cart (with your purse in it) for only a moment. And that’s when they strike. Don’t let your purse out of your site. If you’re carrying a wallet, beware of pickpockets. A great tip is to leave excess cash and credit/debit cards at home. That way if your wallet is stolen, you haven’t lost everything.
10. Don’t look like a target. The best protection comes from using common sense. If you’re flashing large sums of money around or carrying lots of expensive-looking packages, you are likely to draw the wrong kind of attention. Use plastic when possible or smaller bills. Consider making multiple trips to the car so you’re not carrying so many packages at one time. And, of course, keep all packages locked in the trunk where they are less likely to be noticed.
The information and recommendations contained herein is compiled from sources deemed reliable but is not represented to be accurate or complete. In providing this information, neither Cortland Bank or its affiliates are acting as your agent or is offering you any tax, accounting or legal advice.