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  • Geebo 9:00 am on December 9, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , holiday shopping,   

    Is it safe to buy gift cards for the holidays? 

    Is it safe to buy gift cards for the holidays?

    By Greg Collier

    On this blog, we talk about gift cards a lot. That’s because they’re used by a multitude of scammers as an untraceable form of payment. As a matter of fact, the Federal Trade Commission recently released a report that stated at least 40,000 people lost a total of $148 million to scams that involved gift cards. Typically, these are scams that are demanding some kind of payment that supposed to prevent some kind of distress to the victim. Keep in mind that no company or agency accepts gift cards as payment unless it’s the retailer they’re intended for. You can’t pay bail with gift cards. You can’t pay your bills with gift cards. You can’t pay your taxes with gift cards. If someone is demanding that you pay them with gift cards, they are more than likely a scammer. As we are fond of saying, gift cards are the currency of scammers. But what if you wanted to buy gift cards for their intended purpose. Do you still have to worry about scams? Unfortunately, you do.

    For example, if you’re in the store looking at gift cards, make sure that the number on the back of the card isn’t already exposed. That could mean that the gift card was already purchased and out back on the shelf. Scammers will do this and wait for someone to re-purchase the card. When someone does buy the card, the scammers will quickly drain the card of the money that was added to it. Another version of this scam is when the scammers will scratch off the back to reveal the card number, then place a sticker over it waiting for someone to buy the card. In that case, compare the card with other cards on the rack to make sure the card hasn’t been tampered with.

    You may also want to avoid so-called gift card exchanges. This is where scammers will post on social media that they have a gift card for one retailer but want to trade it with someone who has a gift card for another retailer. However, after the trade is made, the victim finds out that the git card they received has little to no funds available on it.

    While gift cards are incredibly convenient for gift giving and receiving, there are many pitfalls you need to look out for, so you don’t have a complicated Christmas.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on December 8, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , holiday shopping, ,   

    BBB warns holiday shoppers about PayPal scam 

    By Greg Collier

    PayPal is a great payment option when doing your holiday shopping online. You can put just the right amount of money into your PayPal account for the item you’re looking to buy and not worry about being overdrawn on your account. However, that’s not the only worry you should have when using PayPal. The Better Business Bureau has recently issued a warning about a scam that may not be new, but has picked up in activity during the holiday season.

    This particular scam happens when you go to a retailer’s website that you may not be familiar with. You may have seen an ad on social media for the perfect Christmas gift. You may have seen an ad for a hard to get item at an unbelievable price. Even better, the retailer accepts PayPal for payment. The retailer sends you your delivery, but when you open the package, it’s not what you ordered. In fact, it’s some cheap trinket that may not even cost a dollar. The problem with this scam is that PayPal allows the scam to continue in many instances. The scammers have figured out that as long as something is delivered, in most cases, PayPal will side with the seller in a dispute, essentially giving the scammer your cash.

    If you’re using a new retailer for the first time, look for reviews online. Also, do a web search using the retailer’s name and the words ‘scam’ or ‘complaint’. This should be a good indicator to see if the retailer is legitimate or not. You can also do what’s called a ‘whois’ search on the retailer’s web address. This kind of search often gives you an indicator of where the retailer is located. While it’s not a guarantee you’ll avoid a scam, it will let you know if a retailer is from overseas, which is best to avoid.

    If you do end up being scammed through PayPal by an illegitimate retailer and PayPal sides with the seller, you can always file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau themselves. Again, while not a guarantee of getting your money back, PayPal has responded favorably to BBB complaints in the past.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 23, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , holiday shopping, , ,   

    Avoid Black Friday again this year 

    Avoid Black Friday again this year

    By Greg Collier

    As you’re probably well aware of, this Friday is the infamous shopping holiday Black Friday. Every year, we urge our readers to avoid going to brick and mortar stores due to deceptive practices by the stores. Last year, we urged our readers not to go for health reasons due to the ongoing pandemic. This year, we’d like to remind our readers that COVID-19 infections are still happening and being in such close quarters with other shoppers may increase the risk of infection. But again, there are other reasons why you should be wary of many different things on Black Friday.

    The first thing to be aware of is the so-called doorbuster deals. These items are usually very limited in stock. These items are generally designed to get you in the door and try to get you to buy something more expensive once the limited stock is exhausted. Some have even said that the doorbuster products are manufactured with cheaper components to keep profit margins high for the store. That’s not even taking the current supply line crisis into account, as this year’s stock could be even more limited than before. Many of the doorbuster deals can be found on sale later on in the holiday season at an even better price if they’ll be available.

    Shopping online is a much better alternative, but there are pitfalls online that need to be avoided as well. While shopping with the major online retailers is relatively safe, scammers will try to trick you into believing you’re using one of those retailers. Scammers will send out phishing emails using the actual logos of famous shopping sites but will leave a link in the email that will take you to a phony site that resembles the real thing. They’ll then try to gain your financial information for possible identity theft and other potential abuses. In the same vein, scammers will pose as retailers and email you asking you to download something to get a deal. This will instead infect your device with malware, which could allow bad actors to access your device remotely and steal as much information as they want from it. Always go directly to a retailer’s website rather than clicking on anything in an email.

    If at all possible, use a credit card when shopping online. While debit cards may offer some protection against fraudulent purchases, credit cards have better protections and won’t take any money directly from your bank balance. Also, keep an eye on both your debit and credit card accounts to make sure that no unauthorized purchases have been made on them. Many of these services can be set up to send you a notification every time the account is used. While the notifications may be a bit annoying, they can go a long way in preventing fraud on your accounts.

    Even if you’re just buying gift cards for the family this year, there are still hazards to look out for. If you get a gift card where the PIN has already been exposed, it may have already been bought by a scammer. Sometimes scammers will put the card back on the shelf, hoping that someone will add additional funds to the card. Then the scammer could use the funds on the card without your knowledge. Another variation of this scam is when a scammer will scratch the protective coating off the card’s PIN, then replace it with a sticker after writing down the number.

    We hope these tips help you shop smarter and safer this holiday season.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on December 10, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , holiday shopping, , , ,   

    Puppy scams are wrecking the holidays 

    Puppy scams are wrecking the holidays

    Before we get to the heart of the matter, please don’t buy a pet for someone as a surprise gift. Any pet is a responsibility that should be taken seriously and not done as a whim.

    Now it seems between COVID and the upcoming holidays, puppy scams are becoming more and more common. The most typical puppy scam is when you buy a puppy online and the supposed breeder keeps hitting you with fees and expenses. Often the scammers will say they need extra money for insurance, shipping, or a special crate that the puppy needs. Other times, they’ll ask for extra money for supposed problems that have come up in shipping or supposed medical needs for the puppy. Then not only is the puppy never delivered, but it also doesn’t even exist. Recently, there seems to be a rash of these kinds of scams. We’ve seen reports from people who have lost $300 to someone who lost $9000.

    Just because someone has a website and claims to be a breeder, that doesn’t make them one. Scammers can have a website set up in minutes with pictures of dogs that they pulled off of Google Image Search.

    Your best bet is to always shop local from a reputable breeder. Do your research before purchasing a pet. Do a web search with the breeder’s name and the words ‘fraud’ or ‘scam’ to see if there have been any complaints against them. A reverse image search can often tell you if a fake breeder is pulling images off of other websites which is a definite indicator of a scam. Avoid any offers that are below the usual price for that particular breed. That’s how scammers often lure in their victims.

    As always, we recommend adopting a pet from your local shelter. Some shelters even have waiting lists if you’re looking for a particular breed. If you’re not looking for a particular breed we still recommend visiting your local shelter. Not only will you save a lot of money but you never know which animal there will capture your heart.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 25, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , holiday shopping, , ,   

    Why you should really avoid Black Friday this year 

    Why you should really avoid Black Friday this year

    In the past, we’ve always advised our readers against going to a brick and mortar store on Black Friday. This year, it should be quite obvious why you should avoid the big box stores this year. Not only has the CDC urged Americans to not travel this Thanksgiving due to the increase in COVID-19 cases, but many retailers have also reversed the previous trend of starting Black Friday on Thanksgiving Day. However, if you insist on braving the current landscape on Black Friday, there are still the annual pitfalls you have to look out for.

    The first thing to beware of is the so-called doorbuster deals. These items are usually very limited in stock. These items are generally designed to get you in the door and try to get you to buy something more expensive once the limited stock is exhausted. Some have even said that the doorbuster products are manufactured with cheaper components to keep profit margins high for the store.

    Shopping online is a much better alternative, but there are pitfalls online that need to be avoided as well. While shopping with the major online retailers is relatively safe, scammers will try to trick you into believing you’re using one of those retailers. Scammers will send out phishing emails using the actual logos of famous shopping sites but will leave a link in the email that will take you to a phony site that resembles the real thing. They’ll then try to gain your financial information for possible identity theft and other potential abuses. Along the same vein, scammers will pose as retailers and send you an email asking you to download something in order to get a deal. This will instead infect your device with malware which could allow bad actors to access your device remotely and steal as much information as they want from it. Always go directly to a retailer’s website rather than clicking on anything in an email.

    If at all possible when shopping online, use a credit card over a debit card when making purchases. While both debit and credit cards offer protection against scam purchases, credit cards have better protections and won’t take any money directly from your bank balance. Also, keep an eye on both your debit and credit card accounts to make sure that no unauthorized purchases have been made on them. Many of these services can be set up to send you a notification every time the account is used. While the notifications may be a bit annoying, they can go a long way in preventing fraud on your accounts.

    Even if you’re just buying gift cards for the family this year, there are still hazards to look out for. If you get a card with the PIN already being exposed it’s likely that card has been purchased already with the scammer putting the card back on the shelf hoping that someone will add additional funds to the card that the scammer could then use without your knowledge. Another variation of this scam is when a scammer will scratch the protective coating off of the card’s PIN then replace it with a sticker after writing down the number.

    To all our readers, we hope that you have a safe and healthy Thanksgiving holiday.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on December 23, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: barcode, , , holiday shopping,   

    Why are scammers putting barcode stickers on gift cards? 

    Why are scammers putting barcode stickers on gift cards?

    With Christmas almost upon us this week, many people are most assuredly picking up gift cards as last-minute gifts. However, if shoppers aren’t careful, they could end up with more trouble than they bargained for. In the past, we’ve discussed the myriad of ways that scammers can alter gift cards so you end up paying the scammers rather than giving a gift to a loved one. Now, we can add one more scam to that list that could possibly fool any eagle-eyed shopper looking for a quick Christmas present.

    Police in Florida are reporting that shoppers in their area have purchased gift cards that have barcode stickers placed over the actual barcode on the back of the card. Scammers will do this to fool the shopper and the store to add the value of the purchase to the scammer’s card and not the shopper’s card. This means the scammer can collect the card’s value without being anywhere near the store. All the scammer needs to do is put the phony barcode sticker on a series of cards hanging on a store’s rack and they could rake in the cash virtually undetected. Meanwhile, the recipient of the card may not even notice until they try to use the card.

    Whenever you purchase a gift card from a store you should always examine it for any kind of tampering as this is just one way in which scammers try to steal from gift cards. Also, when possible, take a gift card from the middle or back of the pack as scammers tend to target the ones in the front so they can get their money as soon as possible. And while cash may seem a bit impersonal as a gift, you can always dress it up to seem more personal. Plus, a person can’t be scammed out of cash as easily as a gift card.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on December 11, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , holiday shopping, ,   

    When family comes calling for gift cards 

    When family comes calling for gift cards

    In the past, we’ve talked about family impersonation scams such as the grandparent scam. We’ve also talked about the numerous scams that involve retail gift cards. Now, we have reports of the two scams coming together like an evil chimera of scams. Once again, the scammers are upping their game during the holiday season and are looking to prey on your bonds with your family in order to try to get you to part with your hard-earned money under false pretenses. In short, they’re looking to take advantage of the charity you have for your family for their own gain,

    A report out of Northern California has revealed a new type of scam where scammers are posing as your relatives through email. The scammer will ask you to buy a gift card for their niece or nephew while the scammer claims that they’re traveling and can’t buy it themselves. They’ll either have you send the gift card to an address or have you email them the gift card serial number off of the back of the card. Either way, the phony relative disappears with your money from the gift card.

    If you receive one of these emails, check the email address to make sure if it’s the one that belongs to your relative. Even if it matches you should still call that relative to make sure they didn’t send that email. The request for the gift card itself should send up a red flag. Gift cards can be bought at almost any store from dollar stores to the bog box markets. Even gas station mini-marts sell various gift cards. If your relative claims to be traveling then they really should have no problem buying a gift card on their own. If they say otherwise, it’s more than likely a scam.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on December 3, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , holiday shopping, , , ,   

    Is your city in the porch pirates’ top 10? 

    Is your city in the porch pirates' top 10?

    Another type of Grinch that wants to ruin your holiday season is the heartless porch pirate. This is the term used for thieves who will steal package deliveries straight from your porch or mailbox. With more and more people eschewing brick and mortar stores for online Christmas shopping, the problem of stolen packages is becoming more and more prevalent. It’s gotten so bad that there’s not a lot of what police departments can do once a package is stolen. If you’ve had a package stolen from your porch, you may think that your city is the worst. However, a study done by a home security company claims to have found the top ten cities where porch pirates are most prolific.

    According to home security company Safewise, they have looked at not only FBI statistics but also web searches for things like stolen or missing packages. They’ve determined that the top ten cities and metro areas for porch pirates are San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Portland, Baltimore, Seattle-Tacoma, Chicago, Austin, Denver, L.A., and Sacramento. Not surprisingly, a number of these cities are large tech hubs where more people tend to buy things online than in stores. Also, California is more represented on this list than any other state.

    It’s better to prevent porch theft than it is to try to recover a stolen package. While a doorbell camera or home security camera may catch the thieves in the act, it doesn’t seem to discourage them from stealing your deliveries. Instead of having packages left at your doorstep, you may want to consider having them delivered to your place of work, or to a neighbor’s house who is home more often. With their permission, of course. You may also want to consider renting a post office box at your local mail supply store. Not only does this give you a street address to use for deliveries, but they can also sign for packages for you. If you’re having an item shipped directly, try to have it delivered at a time when someone will definitely be home. Also, the US Postal Service has many free services available to you to prevent porch piracy such as having your mail held so you can pick it up at the post office.

    Just a few preventative steps will help you have a theft-free Christmas.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on December 2, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , holiday shopping, , ,   

    Homeland Security warns of counterfeits for Christmas 

    Homeland Security warns of counterfeits for Christmas

    If you’re looking for a very special Christmas present like a Louis Vuitton bag or a Rolex watch, you have to traverse through the minefield that are counterfeit goods. More often than not, when buying a well-known luxury brand item you’ll have to deal more with fakes then you will the genuine article. Besides being possibly ripped off, the high-end counterfeit goods market has been linked to every type of criminal activity from human trafficking to organized crime and funding terrorism. In the past year alone, the Department of Homeland Security has confiscated over $500 million in counterfeit goods.

    DHS has issued a warning about these phony products flooding the market during the holiday shopping season. They say to beware of websites offering deep discounts for normally expensive items as that’s a good indicator that the products are knock offs. A number of these sites offering these goods could also be just a front to gain your financial information and not even send you a product. DHS also wants people to know that knowingly buying a counterfeit product is also a federal offense and could land not only the seller but the buyer in jail as well.

    If you’re looking to buy these products first-hand, then only deal with reputable merchants and keep all the documentation that comes with it including receipts and confirmation emails. If you’re buying these items second-hand, any person selling these items should have all the documentation that goes along with them as they’re a common form of confirmation of the item’s authenticity. Some second-hand markets even have authenticity programs for high-end goods in order to try to prevent fraud. And while it may be fun to own a knock-off as a form of entertainment, keep in mind that buying one is not only illegal but you never really know where your money is going or what it’s funding.

    So, to keep everybody safe and happy during the holiday season, only buy genuine.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 27, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , holiday shopping, , ,   

    How to avoid online Black Friday scams 

    How to avoid online Black Friday scams

    In the past, we’ve advised against going to brick and mortar retailers on Black Friday. Not just for safety reasons but also because many retailers engage in misleading business practices by using limited stock to try o get you to buy more expensive items. Usually, these so-called doorbuster deals can be found for the same price or lower later into the holiday shopping season. In the past few years, we’ve advised shopping online rather than braving the crowds on Black Friday. However, even online Black Friday shopping comes with its own pitfalls.

    While many of the big-name online retailers are safe to shop through, scammers will try to trick you into believing you’re using one of those retailers, but it reality you may not be. Scammers will send out phishing emails using the actual logos of famous shopping sites but will leave a link in the email that will take you to a phony site that resembles the real thing. They’ll then try to gain your financial information for possible identity theft and other potential abuses. Along the same vein, scammers will pose as retailers and send you an email asking you to download something in order to get a deal. This will instead infect your device with malware which could allow bad actors to access your device remotely and steal as much information as they want from it. Always go directly to a retailer’s website rather than clicking on anything in an email.

    As the video above mentions, if at all possible, use a credit card over a debit card when making purchases. While both debit and credit cards offer protection against scam purchases, credit cards have better protections and won’t take any money directly from your bank balance. Also, keep an eye on both your debit and credit card accounts to make sure that no unauthorized purchases have been made on them. Many of these services can be set up to send you a notification every time the account is used. While the notifications may be a bit annoying, they can go a long way in preventing fraud on your accounts.

    And as always, keep in mind that gift cards are the currency of scammers and you could be ripped off in a number of ways when buying gift cards. You can check our previous post here about what to look out for when buying gift cards.

    Once again, we wish you a happy and headache-free holiday season.

     
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