Beware of scams this holiday season

scam graphicWarning of Scam

News release from Arlington County:

As the end of the year quickly approaches, many of us are preparing for the holiday season with increased spending, donations, and distractions. This makes the holiday season a prime time for criminals as they aim to take advantage of the public’s generosity and spending through creative scams designed to steal money and personal information. That’s why the Arlington County Police Department is urging residents to remain alert for scams this holiday season.

Scammers may use various techniques to fool potential victims. Avoid becoming a victim by following these practices:

  • Be suspicious of any unsolicited phone calls, emails or in-person solicitations which request funds or claim that you owe money.
  • Avoid providing your personal information to organizations you are unfamiliar with.
  • Stop and think before you provide personal banking information or hand anybody cash.
  • Take your time. If you are requested to act quickly or there is a stated emergency, it may be a scam. Scammers create a sense of urgency to get you to act impulsively.
  • If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

MORE: Fraud prevention tips.

Charitable Solicitations

When approached by a charitable solicitor, whether by phone, online, or in-person, follow these practices:

  • Research the cause and organization you are considering donating to.
  • Ask questions of the solicitor such as:
    • Whether they are from a telemarketing company or work directly for the charity
    • What programs are conducted by the charity
    • How much of your donation will be used for a charitable program
    • How much the solicitor guarantees to the charity
  • See it in writing. Ask the solicitor for additional information about the charity, including its annual report or a brochure outlining its accomplishments.
  • Never use a phone number or website address provided to you from the solicitor to verify their credibility.
  • Check an organization’s reliability by calling the Consumer Protection Hotline – Handled by the Office of the Attorney General, VA toll free at 800-552-9963 or at 804-786-2042.
  • To find out more about the charitable organization and how much your contribution will be used for charitable purposes, call the Office of Charitable and Regulatory Programs (OCRP) within the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at 804-786-1343.

Secure your Personal Information

Remain fiscally secure by following these practices:

  • Track and review your bank and credit card statements for irregular activity
  • When using an ATM machine, credit card reader or gas pump, make certain the device is securely attached to the machine. If unsecured, alert the business.
  • Use the credit card feature at the gas pumps; your zip code, not PIN, is required.
  • Do not wire money to anyone you do not know.
  • Do not respond to e-mails requesting you to “confirm,” “update,” or “provide” account information.

Report Scams

If you find that you were a target of victim of a scam, file an online police report.

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About the Author

Truman Lewis
A former reporter and bureau chief, Truman Lewis has covered presidential campaigns, state politics and stories ranging from organized crime to environmental and consumer protection.