With the hustle and bustle of the holidays well underway, the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance’s (TDCI) Division of Consumer Af-fairs is warning consumers to be wary of holiday-themed scams during this season of giving.
Because scammers use the holidays to prey upon the good nature of others, Tennesseans are urged to guard their personal in-formation carefully and stay informed of the latest schemes and swindles. TDCI reminds consumers that “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” remains one of the best guidelines when it comes to avoiding scams.
TDCI offers the follow-ing additional precautions to help Tennesseans fight back against scam artists:
• Be suspicious of anyone requiring you to send money with prepaid money cards.
• Be suspicious of apps, online advertise-ments, or websites offering prices that seem suspi-ciously lower than retail prices at trusted retailers.
• Consider paying with a credit card that of-fers fraud protection when possible.
• Only shop on se-cure websites. Look for https in the address (the extra “s” is for “secure”) and for a lock symbol.
Many holiday scams in-volve phishing. Phishing is the act of tricking consum-ers into revealing infor-mation or performing ac-tions they wouldn’t nor-mally do online using pho-ny email or social media posts. Cyberscammers tai-lor their emails and social messages with holiday themes in the hopes of tricking recipients into re-vealing personal infor-mation.
The Division of Con-sumer Affairs encourages consumers to be familiar with these common holi-day scams:
• UPS phishing scams: A phony notice from UPS says you have a package and need to fill out an attached form to get it delivered. The form may ask for personal or finan-cial details that will go straight into the hands of the cyberscammer.
• Banking phishing scams: Cybercriminals craft emails to look like no-tices sent by actual banks in hopes of scamming busy and distracted consumers into providing their online banking usernames and passwords.
• SMS phishing scams: Scammers send fake messages via a text alert to a phone, notifying an unsuspecting consumer that his bank account has been compromised. The cybercriminals then direct the consumer to call a phone number to get it re-activated—and collects the user’s personal information including Social Security number, address, and ac-count details.
• E-card scams: While sending electronic cards can be convenient and fun, beware if you must share additional in-formation to open the card, or if the sender’s name is not apparent.
• Holiday job scams: Retailers and deliv-ery services need extra help at the holidays, but beware of solicitations that require you to share per-sonal information online or pay for a job lead. Apply in person or go to retailers’ main websites to find out who is hiring.
• Letters from San-ta scams: Several trusted companies offer charming and personalized letters from Santa, but scammers mimic them to get person-al information from unsus-pecting parents. Check with www.bbb.org to find out which ones are legiti-mate.
• Family emergency scams: Be cautious if you get a call or email from a family member or friend claiming to be in an acci-dent, arrested, or hospital-ized while traveling in an-other country. Never send money unless you confirm with another family mem-ber that it’s true.
If you have been con-tacted by or fallen victim to a charity scam, report it to the Division of Charitable Solicitations, Fantasy Sports and Gaming at the Secretary of State’s Office; the Federal Trade Com-mission; your local police department or law en-forcement agency; and your bank or credit card company if applicable.