• Hints & Tips for a Scam-Free Holiday Season

    Monterey County Sheriff’s Dept. wishes all a scam-free holiday season.Keep reading below for tips to make it through the holiday season scam-free. 


    Whether you shop online or in a store, scammers are looking to hook you. You may be tempted by great internet deals, but beware of copycat sites mimicking well-known retailers. If you do make a lot of online purchases, keep track of what will be delivered to your house. Package delivery hoaxes are all too common this time of year – either by phone or email with a malware link.

    Your best bet to shop safely:
    –      Don’t click on a link from an email or social media site unless you are absolutely sure the message is from a legitimate business.
    –      Before making a purchase, do an online search for the “vendor name + scam”.
    –      When shopping at brick-and-mortar stores, use your credit card instead of your debit card for better protection.  

    Fake Greeting Cards 

    Be careful of seemingly legitimate-looking greeting cards sent via email – known as e-cards – that once they are clicked or downloaded, might contain spyware or a computer virus. Adding to the confusion: these e-mails often appear to be from popular electronic greeting card companies.How to avoid malware from a fake e-card:

    –       Don’t open the card if the sender is from someone you don’t know, the URL looks odd, or your name is misspelled.
    –       Keep your antivirus software up-to-date.
    –       Look for a confirmation code accompanying the e-card, which usually takes you to the website issuing the card.

    Fake Santas 

    And if these other scams weren’t enough…look out for a possible phishing scheme by way of an email promoting sending a letter from Santa to your kids or grandkids. It could be a trick to get your personal information and subject you to identity theft. What to do if you hear from “Santa”:

    –       Only deal with organizations and people you know when opening unsolicited emails.
    –       Don’t provide personal or financial information.
    –       File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (bbb.org) so they can get the word out to others.

    The name game

    Scammer-run websites use the names of popular items and retailers to steal credit card and password information or deliver malware. You’re led to them when you do online keyword searches, including terms like “discount toys.”

    Search away to compare prices, but before you click on links, carefully read the URL. Last season, scores of scammer-run websites spoofed online retailer Overstock— usually with extra words, letters or numbers between “overstock” and the dot-com. Characters may follow the .com to take you to a product page, but legitimate websites should be like amazon.com, not amazonBUY0567.com. You’re safest when you type website addresses yourself, rather than clicking on links found through search engine keyword results.

    Beware of cybersquatters– websites that tinker with well-known brand names to sell cheap knockoffs, or just steal payments and deliver nothing. Some of these are based overseas, so in addition to misspelled names — say, Tifany instead of Tiffany — avoid American brands being sold at an Internet address that ends with the ID letters of a foreign country or co.mn, indicating a company in Mongolia. You can also check website ownership at WhoIs.net. Also, never give payment card or other information unless the page’s address begins with “https://”

    Gift card grift

    Thieves copy codes with portable scanners or pen and paper, and play the waiting game. By dialing toll-free numbers listed on gift cards, they find out when those cards were activated and their value to spend online, or they generate cloned copies for in-store use. When your intended recipient tries to redeem the card, it’s worthless.

    The safer move: Purchase gift cards from a store cashier, customer service counter or website, rather than from unattended display racks. Make sure the cashier scans and activates the card in your presence and that you get a receipt in case there’s a problem.

    Courier cons

    Bogus shipping emails claiming to be retailers or services like FedEx, UPS or the U.S. Postal Service explode during the holiday season, and no matter the claim — an alleged tracking update, problem with delivery, whatever — the result is usually the same: a link promising details that instead delivers malware or solicits personal or financial information.

    Unless you have already provided your email address, assume unexpected emails are scams. If you did sign up for tracking updates, expect them (post-shipping) to be in text form, not links offering promising details. Or just check delivery status by entering the received tracking number on the courier’s website, such as fedex.com/us/track.

    Also beware of mailed postcards about “undeliverable” packages. Although less used because of required postage, they’re sometimes an attempt to get you to make an expensive overseas phone call or to reveal personal and financial information. Most commonly used area codes include 809, 876 and 284.

    False freebies

    In coming weeks, expect more spam email promising free stuff. The cost could be identity theft if you provide sensitive information to claim alleged merchandise in unsolicited offers. Malware results that way, as well as in free downloads of games, screen savers, movies or music. (In fact, searches with keywords “free downloads” are most likely to lead computer and smartphone users to malware-laden links.) Mobile apps are an easy way for scammers to gather personal information via malware. The word “free” incentivizes, so download wisely — and only from reputable vendors.

    Example: How Far Could You Travel With $10,000? Enter Our Winter Escapes Sweepstakes Now! See Official Rules. (click here)

    In-store protection

    The quandary: Paying with cash avoids being a victim of data breaches in which payment card information from retailers is hacked, but ‘tis also the season when pickpockets work like Type A elves. If you opt to buy with cash, men should reduce pickpocket risk by carrying wallets in their front pockets; women should wear purses across their body rather than hanging from a shoulder.

    Plastic is more convenient, and credit cards are a better choice than debit cards. If a credit card is used fraudulently, your liability is only $50 — period — and most card issuers will eat those losses. With debit cards, your liability depends on when you report the fraud; if especially tardy, you could responsible for the entire amount. Plus, your checking account may be temporarily frozen if your debit card is lost or stolen.

    Whichever plastic you use, keep close tabs on payment account activity — ideally checking every day and not waiting for reports of data breaches. If a breach occurs where you shop, contact all card issuers to close those accounts and provide new numbers and plastic.

    Information from AARP- See more at: http://blog.aarp.org/2014/11/26/seasons-cheatings-get-wise-to-holiday-shopping-scams/?cmp=SN-EML#sthash.EIE5IIII.dpuf

    The Monterey County Sheriff’s Office wishes you a safe and scam-free holidays!


    posted to Cedar Street Times on December 22, 2014

    Topics: Front PG News, Police Log


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