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Family Emergency Scams, Package Theft, and e-Card Grifts

Christmas will finally arrive next Friday, but hanging the tinsel isn’t the only thing you should do with care. Since scammers don’t take a vacation during the holiday season, be cautious when answering the phone and opening emails—a misstep can be dangerous to your financial health.

Luckily, government agencies like the Internal Revenue Service and Federal Trade Commission are hard at work to help you protect your data from the swarm of cloven-hooved Krampuses. The FTC, for example, is still hard at work on their “12 Days of Consumer Protection” educational outreach campaign.

This week, we’re going to take a look at three more warnings from the 12 Days campaign. It’s a short list that will hopefully help you and your clients avoid the machinations of belly-crawling thieves.

Family Emergency Scams

2020 has been a raging dumpster fire, so it just makes sense that family emergency scams are a thing. Now, you might be tempted to balk at the notion that a criminal could convincingly impersonate one of your family members, but probably have access to years of information on social media. (Now is as good a time as any to caution you against oversharing on Facebook and Twitter; criminals may be reading your posts, too.)

“You might get a call or message supposedly from an out-of-town family member or friend claiming to be in an accident, arrested, or hospitalized,” the FTC explains. “To make their story seem legitimate, they may involve another crook who claims to be an authority figure, like a lawyer or police officer.”

Package Theft

While not a new phenomenon, package theft has traditionally become more common during the holidays. With the pandemic limiting trips to brick-and-mortar stores, that means criminals have even more Amazon and FedEx boxes to steal.

Luckily, not all hope is lost. The FTC has three suggestions for preventing parcel pilfering:

  • Require a signature
  • Give specific delivery instructions
  • Install motion activated lights

If you’re worried about social distancing for signatures, the FTC says that some services may have contactless signature collection—so, be sure to check your available options.

Fake Letter-to-Santa Websites

Just when you think that thieves have finally reached the depths of depravity, they find a way to outdo themselves. Some scammers set up fake e-card and letter-to-Santa websites with the goal of convincing victims to willingly provide personally identifiable and financial information.

If you want to use one of those services, it’s essential to follow this from the FTC to determine if the site you’re going to use is legitimate:

  • Check out the website. Do a quick online search for the site or company name, plus the words “complaint,” “review,” or “scam.” What do people say about them? (Knowing, of course, that those glowing reviews could be fakes…)
  • Share only what you need to share. Does the site really need your home address, your age, or access to your contacts? And none of these companies needs your bank account or Social Security number. (Frankly, Santa probably already knows, so why would he ask?)
  • Don’t click links in unexpected texts or emails. Nothing good comes of that. Instead, check them out first, and then type in the URL yourself so you know where you’re headed.
  • Ignore calls for immediate action. Scammers try to get you to act before you have time to think. Take your time. Legit offers will still be there.

Stay safe!

Sources:Frosty the Con Man: avoiding family emergency scams; Baby, I stole outside; Santa doesn’t need your Social Security number

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