'Tis the season for scams. Consumer protection advocates are again sending out warnings of scam artists preying on the gullible, greedy and hurried this holiday season.
"I couldn't believe the deal," said shopper Mary Ferring, recalling some cookware she saw on the Internet. “It looked like it was worth about $400 or $500 and the cost was $60."
Suffering through tight economic times, Ferring was searching the Web for good gifts and great prices when she found what appeared to be expensive set of cookware for an incredibly low price. What she got in the mail after she made the purchase, however, was cheaply made tin pots and pans that she equated to a camping mess kit.
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"I wouldn't give this to anybody,” Ferring said. Though she wanted to return the set, she found no return address on the label and no contact information on the site from which she purchased it.
“Her story is all too common,” said Audri Lanford, who founded scambusters.org in 1994. "The fact that she actually got something in the mail is unusual. Most of the time, people don’t get anything when they send their money in."
Many scams operate during the holidays. Consumer protection people point to the "12 Scams of Christmas." Here are those scams, and some tips to avoid them:
Fake holiday jobs: Most of these are work-from-home jobs. If a bogus employer asks for money up front or your Social Security number, you could be a potential scam victim.
Fake charities: Never give money to any charity without checking them out first. Whether they come to your door or approach you in the mall parking lot, ask for credentials and information and tell them you’ll consider it later.
Check scams: This usually involves cashier’s checks. Someone who wants to buy your merchandise will offer to pay for more than your asking price, on the condition that you return the difference. Weeks later, you find out from your bank that the check was a fake, and you’re now without your money and your merchandise.
Counterfeit merchandise: Street vendors may sell fake watches, purses and other items that appear to be high-end, name-brand merchandise.
Fake vacation rentals: This involves advertising property that the advertiser doesn’t own.
Non-delivery of merchandise bought online: Self explanatory. Make sure you check out the website from which you are buying the merchandise or check out the company.
E-mail scams: These start with an e-mail that invites you to do something or looks like a directive from your bank. They also could tout fake lotteries or other fake contests, and fake charities.
Phishing scams: In these scams, e-mails that appear to come from a legit company contain a link that send you to a website where you're asked to enter personal information. The site, run by a scammer, is designed to look like that of a legitimate business.
Items-off-of-a-truck scams: Yahoo.com explains this as a roving gang of scammers masquerading as delivery men. They pull a truck up in a parking lot, then say that they can sell you something cheap, like speakers or electronics, implying that it’s stolen. At best, the goods will be low-quality knockoffs. At worst, you could be receiving stolen goods.
Limited quantities: An online scam in which a merchant offers supposedly great products at unbeatable prices. But when you place your order, you’re told they have a limited number, and to get the deal, you have to buy several of the items.
Bait and switch: And old and still effective scam. You buy one thing but receive quite another.
Gift card scams: Gift cards can be tampered with, Landford said. Scammers, with special software, can find validated cards with money on them and then spend the money before the unsuspecting victim has a chance to try to spend it.
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