Law enforcement officials warn of scammers ahead of Christmas

MECOSTA,OSCEOLA COUNTIES — It may be the season of giving, but law enforcement agencies are warning residents to be aware of where they spend their money.

One wrong website, gift card deal or fraudulent charity could lead to a very happy holiday season for scammers.

According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, Michigan ranked 16th in the number of alleged scam victims reported in 2017, with 6,400 consumers losing more than $25 million.

Todd Purcell

“It’s a non stop fight against scammers,” said Mecosta County Sheriff Todd Purcell. “They’re getting better and better at what they’re doing.”

Purcell said it’s extremely important for people to never provide personal information via email or phone calls.

“The second big thing I go by, is if it sounds too good to be true, it is,” he said.

There are numerous scams officials want shoppers to be extra vigilant with schemes and red flags.

The FBI offers the following information about some of the scams out there:

Online shopping scams: Steer clear of unfamiliar sites offering unrealistic discounts on brand name merchandise or gift cards as an incentive to purchase a product. They seek personal information and use unsolicited emails or links to hook shoppers. Before shopping online, secure all bank and credit accounts with strong and different passwords.

Social media scams: Beware of posts on social media sites which appear to offer vouchers or gift cards, even if it appears the offer was shared by an online friend. Some of them may pose as holiday promotions or contests that lead to participation in an online survey designed to steal personal information.

Smartphone app scams: Often disguised as games and offered for free, some apps may be designed to steal personal information from your device. Before downloading an app from an unknown source, look for third-party reviews and alternative app marketplaces.

Work-from-home scams: Offering work that can be done from the comfort of home, these opportunities may have unscrupulous motivations behind them. Take caution when money is required up front for instructions or products, or when a job post claims “no experience necessary.” Consumers should carefully research individuals or companies before providing them with personal information and never provide personal information when first interacting with a potential employer.

Gift card scams: Be careful if someone asks you to purchase gift cards for them. Victims receive either a spoofed email, phone call or text from a person in authority requesting the victim purchase multiple gift cards for either personal or business reasons.

Charity scams: Fraudulent charity scams, where perpetrators set up false charities and profit from individuals who believe they are making donations to legitimate charitable organizations are not just for significant events like natural disasters or man-made tragedies. Charity fraud also increases during the holiday season when individuals seek end-of-year tax deductible gifts or are reminded of the less-fortunate. Charity scams may come in the form of phone calls, email campaigns, crowdfunding platforms or fake websites or social media accounts.

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Posted by Brandon Fountain

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