27 Oct GET READY FOR THE 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 SSSAP4U@gmail.com. Questions for the writer should be directed to “Dear Sherry” at Not Born Yesterday! P.O. Box 722, Brea, CA 92822 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
GET READY FOR THE HOLIDAY SCAMS!
Dr. Sherry McCoy, PhD – Stop Senior Scams ℠ Acting Program
Here we are in November 2021! Later this month we’ll celebrate Thanksgiving, and then it’s on to the winter holidays and the beginning of a new year. In essence, the Holiday Season is upon us! And like every year, the holiday season brings with it a lot of joy and multiple opportunities to share that joy with friends and family. We are indeed grateful for that! However, the holiday season is also a time when scammers seem to crawl out from under the woodwork and rachet up their nefarious schemes to steal our money, property and well-being. Let’s not let them get away with that this year! Here are some tools to help us all stay awake, aware, and conscious of fraudsters’ devious plans and dirty tricks to rip us off.
DELIVERY NOTIFICATION SCAMS
For many of us, shopping online has become a way of life during the pandemic. For example, it’s much safer to order your groceries online and have them delivered than it is to brave the supermarket. So, it will come as no surprise that shopping online and having gifts delivered during the holidays will be a popular activity. Thus – scammers have come up with a new way to cash-in on the trend: Delivery Notification Scams! Per the FTC (1), this is what we’re up against.
“Many delivery scams start with a text message or an email about delivering a package to your address … These messages often include a “tracking link” that you are urged to click in order to update your delivery or payment preferences. You might also get a voicemail message with a call-back number, or a “missed delivery” tag on your door with a number to call. While these messages often look or sound legitimate, you should never click a link or call back the number from an unexpected delivery notice. Contact the delivery service or seller directly using a verified number or website. In some cases, a link may open a website that prompts you to enter personal information, or it may install malware on your phone or computer that can secretly steal personal information. The number you call back may be answered by a scam “operator” asking to verify your account information or the credit card number you used for a purchase.”
In addition, it’s important to note that FedEx and UPS do not ask for personal or payment info via unsolicited texts and email. And remember that scammers can spoof phone numbers, text and email addresses to make it appear that they are contacting you from a legitimate source. So, if you receive info re: an unexpected package delivery, err on the side of caution! Better safe than sorry.
Donating to a charity can be a wonderful way of giving during the holidays. But, before you donate to a charity, do your homework and make sure your money is going where you want it to go — not into the hands of a con artist.
Follow these guidelines from the FTC (2): Organizations that can help you research charities
“These organizations offer reports and ratings about how charitable organizations spend donations and how they conduct business:
- BBB Wise Giving Allowance — https://www.give.org/
- Charity Navigator — https://www.charitynavigator.org/
- Charity Watch — https://www.charitywatch.org/
- GuideStar — https://www.guidestar.org/
The IRS’s Tax-Exempt Organization Search — https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/tax-exempt-organization-search
— tells you if your donation would be tax deductible.
You can find your state charity regulator at nasconet.org. Most states require the charity or its fundraiser to register to ask for donations.”
If you’re planning on traveling this holiday season, please take a look at these guidelines from the FTC (3) on how to spot and avoid travel scams.
Signs of a Travel Scam
A “free” vacation package – All you have to do is pay a few fees and taxes! Obviously, the vacation package isn’t “free” if you have to pay anything. All the fees and taxes they want you to pay can add up to big bucks! Don’t do it. It’s a scam.
Travel offers without any specifics – The ad says you’ll stay at a “5-star hotel” or travel on a “luxury liner,” but no info is provided about the actual name/address of the hotel or the name of the cruise company. Big red flag! It’s a scam.
Only way to pay for travel package is cryptocurrency, gift cards or wire transfer – HUGE Red Flag! Always a scam. Avoid.
Pressure to buy travel package right away – Definitely a scam. Take your time when deciding on your holiday travel. If they want you to make a decision quickly, move on.
Premium vacation property rentals for a very cheap price – Below market rent is often the sign of a scam. Do your homework and research before plunging forward.
3 Ways to Avoid Travel Scams
Don’t sign or pay till you know the terms of the deal – Get a copy of cancellation and refund policies. If those aren’t available, move on.
Do your own research – Check out travel companies, hotels, rentals, etc. online. Look for what others have said about them before you make a commitment. Search using the words “scam,” “review,” and “complaint.” Does the property you’re thinking of renting really exist?
Don’t pay with cryptocurrency, wire transfers or gift cards – This is always a sign of a scam! If the vacation package only comes through these methods of payment, walk away. Better yet – Run!
USE COMMON SENSE
And finally, 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. Good luck and have a safe, healthy and fraud-free holiday!
WHERE TO REPORT SCAMS
If you believe you have been the target or victim of a of a scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission at 877-382-4357 or online at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1. 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, you may also report it to the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging’s Fraud Hotline at 1-855-303-9470.
SAVE THE DATE!
You are invited to attend a virtual program called “Stop Holiday Scams” with the Stop Senior Scams Acting Program (SSSAP) on Thursday, November 18th at 3pm at the West LA Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library. Please email email@example.com for the zoom link. There program will include a Q&A with Ann Stahl, retired investigator from the FTC, and I will be talking about holiday scams. We look forward to seeing you there!
STOP SENIOR SCAMS℠ ACTING PROGRAM CONTINUES VIRTUAL PROGRAMMING
SSSAP is continuing to book virtual programs and will soon be booking in-person programs in the late fall and winter. Please contact Adrienne Omansky at SSSAP4U@gmail.com for more information, or if your organization would like to host our program.
STOP SENIOR SCAMS℠ ACTING PROGRAM on YOUTUBE
Please go to the SSSAP YouTube Channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjFjb-WPPr8KAXq1dlu1EvA to see our new videos. If you subscribe (free of charge), you will be notified when new videos are released. Together we can Stop Senior Scams! Here are links to two of our most recent videos: “The Top Senior Scams with SSSAP” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cp097g7hTUg, and “Robocalls, Mail Fraud and Merlin with SSSAP” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dA3noym9JPo&t=186s.
Remember: You may be a target, but you don’t have to be a victim!
Dr. Sherry McCoy, PhD is a freelance writer & actor for the Stop Senior Scams ℠ Acting Program (SSSAP) in Los Angeles. Follow SSSAP on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SSSAP2016/?fref=ts. For more info re: SSSAP, contact Adrienne Omansky at SSSAP4U@gmail.com. Questions for the writer should be directed to “Dear Sherry” at Not Born Yesterday! P.O. Box 722, Brea, CA 92822 or firstname.lastname@example.org.