Nowadays, scammers are increasingly sophisticated in their attempts to steal your money or personal details. Be alert when you are travelling and protect yourself from being scammed by following our 6 tips to avoid scammers on holiday.
6. GIFT CARD SCAMS
Gift cards are hot! You can get gift cards for almost every popular shop on the streets or on your phone. Scammers are known to go to racks with gift cards and, using some kind of handheld scanners, read the code behind the magnetic strip of the card or the number on the front. They put the gift card back in the display and periodically check back with the retailer by calling its phone number to check whether the card has been activated or not. Once the gift card is activated, they either create a counterfeit card or they order things online without having the actual card in their hands.
To avoid this gift card scamming problem, only purchase gift cards from behind the customer service desk, and if the card is already pre-loaded, always ask the clerk for the card to be scanned to show if it is actually fully valued.
5. PUPPY SCAMS
Puppies of kennel dogs are, weirdly enough, a popular holiday gift. What scammers do is to set up phony websites, purporting they are breeders of purebred dogs. These type of scammers send you photographs of the puppies. But most often these photographs are taken by the scammers from other websites of actual legitimate breeders. In many of these cases, after a price for a puppy is agreed upon, the scammer requires you to send additional payments to cover the shipping costs, insurance and veterinarian fees. Once you send the agreed amount, the victim is told to go to the airport to pick up their new little dog. Of course, when the victim gets to the airport, there is no puppy to be found.
Even if you try to make contact with a legitimate breeder over the Internet, never buy a dog without actually seeing the dog or the facility where someone is selling the dog. Always ask for an independent veterinarian’s report on the dog and check out the sellers credentials on the internet.
4. PHISHING SCAMS
The holiday season destroys your e-mail mailbox, trying to lure you to websites for all kinds of discounted merchandise, coupon codes and myriad other enticements to click on links in tainted websites that automatically installs malware that will steal all the information from your computer and makes you one of the many victims of identity theft.
You can never be too sure to check if an e-mail that you receive is actually legitimate, so if you are being tempted to click on a link or to provide your personal information for what appears to be a legitimate purpose, always ignore the e-mail and search for the real website of the company to see whether the e-mail was indeed legitimate or fake.
3. VACATION HOME RENTAL SCAM
There are numerous of legitimate websites where you can find wonderful vacation homes. These sites are excellent if you want to find great vacation home during the season. Unfortunately, scammers also put their fake listings on vacation websites. The listing you see may look like it’s official, and there is also a good reason for that. In reality, the listing might be from a real online listing that has been directly copied by the scammer who merely puts in his own contact information.
There are a few important red flags to look for to avoid vacation home rental scams. First, as always, if the price of the listing is too good to be true, it usually is just that – not true. Remember to never send your payment by a wire transfer or a cashier’s check. Use a credit card if possible, so you can always retrieve your funds if the transaction appears to be fraudulent. It is usually best to focus on sites that are specialized in vacation homes, but you must remember that they will not monitor every single listing to ensure you it is legitimate. If your gut feelings gives you mixed signals, you can also go online to the tax assessor’s (head)office of the city where the property says it is located and look up the real property owner. If it does not match the name of the person attempting to rent you the home, be warned, it is probably a scam.
2. CONTEST SCAM
Phony million dollar lotteries are one of the most successfully perpetrated scams throughout the entire year, and these lotteries become even more common during the holidays with holiday-related phony lotteries themes. Potential victims are told that they have won a lottery they never actually entered and they merely only have to pay some related taxes or fees to claim ‘their’ prize.
In real life It is already extremely hard to win a lottery. It is still impossible to win one you have not even entered. It is extremely important to remember that not a single legitimate lottery charges you any fees to claim your prize, and also no legitimate lottery collects income taxes for the IRS. The taxes are either directly deducted from your prize or you are responsible yourself for paying the taxes directly to the IRS.
1. GRANDPARENT SCAM
The infamous grandparent scam is another one which is done throughout the entire year; however, it is more common during the holidays when the college-age grandchildren might be traveling. The scam always starts with a sudden phone call, apparently from a grandchild who has encountered a medical or legal emergency, and is in desperate need of money immediately. Often the scammers retrieve your personal information to make the call sound legitimate through the child’s Facebook page or any other social media.
A good way to be proactive is to have a secret word or extremely personal question which a child should use in an emergency situation. If the caller does not know it, it is probably most likely scam. People which are traveling abroad should always register with the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program at https://step.state.gov/step/. This program helps you with communication in emergencies.