Community: Ahead of the Holidays, sharing some sound advice for shopping online from our Criminal Investigations Division.
Dear Nixle User,
Around the Holidays every year, the “Grinch” rears his ugly head as a criminal opportunist. Don’t let yourself become his latest victim. Take the advice of our Criminal Investigations Division and protect your finances, as you shop for family and friends this Christmas!
Hall County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigators advise us of some popular scams and gimmicks to avoid when you make your list and check it twice:
• Gift cards have gained in popularity in recent Christmases past. Why spend a lot of time in choosing a gift that someone may or may not be thrilled about receiving, when you could simply pick up a gift card from their favorite store for them? According to the Better Business Bureau, approximately 80% of the shoppers this season will be purchasing gift cards. The profits for companies selling and redeeming them will soar into the billions. As a scam artist, a small percentage of that would easily be enough to survive on until the next Holiday shopping season.
In one preferred scheme, the scam artist will enter a store, locate the gift card rack and covertly copy numbers off the cards. The scammer then checks online, or calls the 1-800 number on the card, to see if someone has purchased the cards. As soon as a card is activated, the scam artist goes on an online shopping spree. By the time your loved one tries to use the card you gave them, the money is gone. You can protect yourself by shopping directly with a reputable retailer. While you are in the store, check to see if the security code on the backside of the gift card you are wanting to buy has been scratched off. If so, there is a good chance that a scam artist is simply waiting for you to “take the bait”. Bring that issue to the attention of store personnel, so that no one else becomes an unwitting victim. Before you purchase the card, inspect it to make sure that any packaging has not been tampered with. It may also be wise to ask a store clerk for a card that has been kept behind the counter, when available.
• Investigators are also advising the neighborhood watch groups throughout Hall County
to keep a watch out for package thieves. Online shopping is at its peak during this time of the year, as well. Try to schedule someone from your household to be at your residence when you expect the package to be delivered. You may even consider having the parcel dropped at the nearest location along your evening commute. Leaving an unattended package on your doorsteps is simply asking for the attention of a criminal opportunist. In parts of metro Atlanta, thieves have even been caught on camera walking right up to the front doors of residences and snagging packages from the doorstep. The suspects follow delivery trucks into neighborhoods and wait for their opportunity to strike when your home is unoccupied.
Here are a few general ways to protect yourself from a variety of suspicious activities as you deck the halls:
1. Do your homework before shopping. Research the interests of family on your gift list, the gifts you feel appropriate for them and the store from which you plan to purchase the gifts. have your list, check it twice… or, maybe even thrice!
2. If you plan on doing the majority of your gifting online, search each store’s website for a working customer service number. Also, consider driving to an actual brick and mortar store location and asking them if the website is legit. FACT: If you see grammatical errors or spelling mistakes on the company website, that could be a major “RED FLAG” indicating a scam is in the works.
3. Watch for suspicious giveaway offers that may pop up on your Facebook and Twitter feeds. Security software firms indicate that they’ve found suspicious pages advertising raffles for two of the season’s hottest gifts — the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. These suspicious “giveaways” and “raffles” appear to be using the popular gaming consoles to lure people into unknowingly signing up for paid text messaging schemes. The offers solicit “Likes” or “Shares” to get distributed on social media feeds. The more the offer is shared, the more likely people are to buy in. Be wary of any “giveaways” or “raffles” that direct you to a survey site asking for personal information and your mobile phone number. Only sign up for promotions offered by reputable organizations, or for offers you know to be legitimate.
4. Grandparent Scams: Scammers will target the elderly over the holidays with a “desperate call” or email from a “stranded” grandchild or loved one… The person calling will claim they have had an unfortunate situation occur and need bail money wired to them immediately for release from jail. Many senior citizens do not communicate through social media outlets. They depend on the evening news and local newspaper to provide them with information. Make sure you become another dependable source of information for them. Provide them with all of the information you collect regarding scams. Alert them to suspicious activities by explaining the ulterior motives of the new age cunning thieves. Give BACK, over the holiday season, to those who have so richly blessed you throughout the years with their guidance and by sharing their own life experiences!
There are other pearls of wisdom we would like to share with you during this joyous season, but you may contact us at any time to inquire about particular instances of suspicious activities. Don’t let the Grinch get the best of you this holiday season, call (770)533-7659 for our Crime Prevention Unit. You may also contact us through our non-emergency dispatch line at (770)536-8812, if you feel that you have become the victim of an actual scam. Have a safe and happy holiday season, from all your friends at the Hall County Sheriff’s Office!