Many of us love the holiday season. Glistening snow, festive lights, Christmas carols, presents under the tree, friends and family rejoicing together…
And don’t get me started on holiday food and drinks. Most of us end up eating more than we should, only to make our vows to cut back on January 1.
But there is a group of folks who enjoy the holidays even more than we do. And I’m willing to bet all of them are on Santa’s naughty list.
I’m talking about people (and I use the term loosely) who exploit trusting souls to pull off holiday season scams.
And although these scams are geared towards any trusting individual, seniors unfortunately are much more vulnerable to scams. Especially during the holidays when scams targeting seniors are said to peak. Some are unfamiliar with the internet safety and do not recognize when a scam is being presented to them.
This is a very serious threat, folks. Consumers are being warned that scams are on the rise this holiday season.
Beware of Phone-y Calls
What if someone walked up to you on the street or in a parking lot and asked for your personal information? Such as your Social Security number. You’d say forget it, right?
Or perhaps you’d say something a little stronger. And maybe you’d report that person to the authorities.
But too many of us don’t take that same attitude when we’re asked over the phone or online for that same type of info.
Scam artists know this, so that’s how they work. They call people or send them emails, saying they are with a certain company that needs this data. And many unsuspecting folks give it for them.
Social Security Scheme
One particular scam of concern that’s going on now is this. People get a phone call that shows up as a Social Security number on their caller ID.
The caller says to be with the Social Security Administration. They say they want to make sure they have your correct Social Security number.
Or they’ll say your Social Security number is in danger of being deactivated. Or that additional information is needed to keep your benefits from being terminated.
Once they get that Social Security number, they hang up and try to use it to gain more personal info and make purchases.
Call-Back Is Payback
I’m going to steal a line from the old TV show, The X-Files. “Trust No One.” For one thing, no one from the Social Security Administration would ever call asking for that type of information.
So, if that were ever to happen to you, hang up on them.
What if the call is apparently coming from someone you work with? In that case, seeking some piece of personal info from you such as a bank account number might be legit.
But don’t take any chances. Tell them you are going to disconnect from this call, but that you will call the company they say they represent to continue the conversation.
Report it Immediately
The same type of thing could occur in one of your online transactions. Sometimes it is necessary to give personal info to get what you want.
But question everything. For example, no one should need your Social Security number for a normal transaction.
And no one should ever need any of the user names or passwords you use for any of your accounts.
If you are convinced you have had a fraudulent call, report it to the Office of the Inspector General. They can be reached at 800-269-0271 or through their site.
Be as Smart as Your Phone
It’s easier to trick people on smartphones than it is on a computer screen. That’s because a phone owner often only sees part of a website address.
Last year, about 40 percent of what people bought in November and December were made on mobile phones. Much to the delight of scammers.
One piece of advice for those who want to shop with their smartphones is this. Make sure when you’re in a transactional website the address has a valid “https” connection with a lock symbol. Not just “http,” which is vulnerable to attacks.
With bogus transactional apps, people are often fooled into typing in their card numbers. Or the app might contain malware that steals personal data. Or locks up a cellphone until the user pays a “ransom” fee.
Keep Scammers at Bay
Like I said, these are not nice people. They’ll gladly get a lump of coal from Santa if they can steal personal data and make fraudulent purchases with it.
Yair Levy is a cyber security and information systems expert at Nova Southeastern University. Here’s what he has to say about this.
“Every year we see this growing significantly Why? Because it becomes more successful. Every year more people shop online.”
So, be very careful. Don’t let the bad guys turn what should be a joyous holiday season into one that will leave you with bad memories.