Holiday Scams:

Fly-By-Night Web Merchants
Each holiday season features THE gift — an item so “hot” that many store shelves are quickly emptied, causing people to literally lose their minds in an effort to buy it. To exploit scarcity, scammers set up websites offering this product, as do dishonest online auction sellers. After raking in the money, the scammers shut down their “stores” and disappear. If you’re “lucky,” you are simply left with no gift item.
Phishing Scam
Run by someone who will use your credit card information to charge more products and services to your account and/or sell the information to identity thieves. In most cases, however, phishing scammers launch websites that look nearly identical to those of larger, reputable merchants — not unknown companies. Typically, you’re contacted by email with a tempting offer or
dire warning, and then directed to click on a link, which takes you to a fake website. Once there, you’re told to enter personal and financial information wanted by the thieves.
Charity Scams
Scammers may pose as representatives of charitable organizations that are real (or merely sound real). At this time of year, their emotionally-charged appeals are more likely to strike “pay dirt” with normally savvy people. You can be sure that other scams will soon be asking for donations to this cause and many others. The scams may involve nationally recognized charities aiding well-known causes, or local groups handling problems closer to home.
Gift Card Scams
Nearly every major retailer offers gift cards, many of which hang on racks at checkout counters.  Today, most cards are protected by scratch-off security codes and protective packaging to prevent information theft. If cards are not protected, however, scammers can write down the numbers while the cards are on display, and then call an 800 number to learn when the cards have been activated. After that, stealing is as simple as rushing to the merchant and making purchases before the REAL cardholder gets there.
Holiday E-Card Scams
You may receive an email from an unnamed “relative,” “neighbor,” or “friend” who has supposedly sent you an e-card that can be viewed by clicking on a link. Clicking on that link, however, may unleash anything from spyware and pop-up ads to viruses and Trojans. In some cases, nothing bad happens until you first download software from the e-card website. (The software is supposedly needed to “run” your e-card.) Sometimes, unwanted or malicious software is downloaded to your computer with your permission — after you agree to certain “fine-print” terms and conditions, usually without reading them.
             
Officer Bryan Dietsch #4859
Community Resources Section
CRT Homeland Security / Crime Prevention 
700 E. Joppa Rd.
Towson, MD 21286
410-887-5901 (Office line)
410-887-8733 (Direct Line)
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