Beware of Holiday Scams

Dr. Sherry McCoy PhD

is a freelance writer & actor for the Stop Senior Scams Acting Program (SSSAP) in Los Angeles.  Follow SSSAP on Facebook .  For more info re: SSSAP, contact Adrienne Omansky at  Questions for the writer should be directed to “Dear Sherry” at Not Born Yesterday! P.O. Box 722, Brea, CA 92822 or


Dr. Sherry McCoy, PhD – Stop Senior Scams ℠Acting Program*

It’s December 2018 and the holiday season is upon us!  If you’re like me, you’re probably busy looking for the best holiday gift deals you can find. It’s a hectic time of the year, regardless of whether you are shopping online or braving the department stores and gift shops.   Perhaps you’re looking for the perfect sweater for your spouse or grandchild.  Or, maybe you’d like to make a charitable donation in the name of good friend.  But, wherever your shopping takes you, it makes good sense to be sure that the money you spend or donate is going for the “real” thing. Holiday scammers are hoping you won’t take the time to investigate or look closely at products before you make a purchase. They’re hoping you’ll be so caught up in the “holiday rush” to find the perfect gift for the perfect price, that you’ll throw caution to the wind, and invest in their shoddy products and fraudulent schemes.  Please don’t let them get away with that!  Instead, let’s all be smart and savvy holiday shoppers instead!  Here are some tips to help us navigate shopping in this holiday season.

How to Avoid Charity Cons

When donating to a charity, do your homework and make sure your money is going whereyouwant it to go; notinto the hands of a con artist.  Before you donate:

  • Contact one of these non-profits to verify the legitimacy of a charity. Wise Giving Alliance(

Charity Navigator (   Guide Star(

  • Find out how much of your donation will go to the charity’s mission, operating costs, etc. In general, legitimate charities “spend less than 35 percent of donations on fundraising and administrative costs.” (AARP Bulletin, March 2011)

Keep Clear of Counterfeit Websites

Be on the lookout for cybersquatters, i.e., dishonest businesses that steal or plagiarize website domain names of well-known companies, e.g., Louis Vuitton, Tiffany, etc., and create “copycat” websites.  “Copycat” websites offer inexpensive, but poor quality knock-offs that pose as the real thing.  Here are some guidelines to help you determine if a website is legitimate, or not.

  • Look carefully at the web address in your browser. If it does not end in “.com” or “.org”, avoid it.
  • Call the customer service phone number on a website to see if you can reach a live person. No? Avoid it.
  • Contact corporate headquarters of the real company to verify any “bargains” advertised at other websites.
  • Contact the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any records of past complaints about the website.
  • Go to www.whois.netand find out who actually owns the website’s name. (AARP Bulletin, May 24, 2010)

Hotel/Front Desk Scam

If your holiday plans involve traveling, beware of a hotel/front desk scam that would certainly put a damper on your holiday plans!  The scam goes like this – You check into your hotel room and once you get cozy and comfortable, the phone rings and the caller says he/she is calling from the front desk and there’s a problem with your credit card.  The caller asks for card # verification, expiration date and security # on the back of the credit card.  Problem is — the caller is a scammer!  Don’t give the caller any info; instead, hang up and go to the front desk to report the call.

Use Your Good & Common Sense

Above all else, use the intelligence you’ve earned while living life over the past 50 to 90+ years!  Don’t leave packages and your handbag / wallet in the car where they are visible.  Drop off your letters and packages inside the Post Office, rather than leaving them outside your door for the mail carrier to pick up.  Use gel pens to write checks you may send in the mail; scammers can’t “wash” your checks and reuse them for their own purposes because gel ink won’t wash away.

If you have questions about Medicare fraud / abuse, or believe you have been the victim of Medicare fraud contact the Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP*) at 1-855-613-7080.  If you feel you have been the target or victim of a scam, report it to the FTC at 877-382-4357 or

We at SSSAP want to say “Thank You!” to all the people we met and all the places we visited in 2018!


Remember:  You may be a target, but you don’t have to be a willing victim!

* Dr. Sherry McCoy, PhD, is a freelance writer & actor for the Stop Senior Scams℠Acting Program (SSSAP) in Los Angeles.  Save the Date:  Saturday, Dec. 1st, at 1pm, John C. Fremont Branch Library, 6121 Melrose Ave., LA, CA 90035.  Follow SSSAP on Facebook at  For more info re: SSSAP, contact Adrienne Omansky at Questions for the writer should be directed to “Dear Sherry” at Not Born Yesterday! P.O. Box 722, Brea, CA 92822 or

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