Nothing brings scammers and victims together like a great deal. With Black Friday kicking off the frenzy of an annual holiday shopping season, now is a good time to review some safety tips. As you venture out of the house or online with a wallet full of credit cards or wads of cash, know that there are people whose sole goal in life is to relieve you of your hard-earned money. Got it? Now let’s review.
Think before you click. The holidays bring a flood of spam emails and texts promising blowout deals on electronics and luxury items, cute e-cards and free gift cards. When clicked, the links in these messages take users to phony websites set up to capture your personal information or/or infect your devices. Never click on any links in unsolicited messages. Delete them immediately. Even if a message looks like it comes from a reputable retailer, do not click on links. Visit the site independently by typing in a known URL (e.g., amazon.com).
Consider the source. What would make you buy an iPad from someone in a parking lot or on the sidewalk instead of from a big box retailer? A better price, no sales tax, no waiting in line? These are among the enticements scammers use to lure in shoppers. Unfortunately, legitimate deals are not to be found on the sidewalk. Buying from an established retail outlet doesn’t guarantee that you will be satisfied with the product, but at least then you have the protection of warranties, returns and exchanges. For more on this, see the rocks in a box scam.
Be way of approaches from strangers. If someone comes up to you in the mall and asks you if you lost a wallet or dropped a piece of jewelry, walk away and notify mall security. These are classic con openings. In fact, if anyone ever approaches you in public with a problem, crisis or proposal, offer to call the police or a security guard. If the person is genuine, this shouldn’t cause any distress. If not, well…see how fast they run.
As always, when out and about, keep your wallet close to you. Never leave it unattended, even to get that extra pack of sugar for your coffee. Don’t keep your Social Security card in your wallet. Keep it under lock and key in your home.
For the truly dedicated, there are bargains to be had on Black Friday, but keep in mind that retailers are in business to make a profit, which suggests that any deal they are offering you is still calculated to make them money. The difference between a legitimate retailer and a con artist is that the retailer is giving you something for your money. The con artist is only taking.
(Image: Beth Rankin on flickr)
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