October 21, 2014
By Salvatore J. Armao, CPA/PFS, CFP, CFE, CGMA
According to most fraud experts, incidences of consumer fraud spike an estimated 20 percent during the holiday season – the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.
It’s a time when increased need – or greed – meets increased opportunity to commit fraudulent acts. We shop, travel and donate more to charity during the holiday season.
Sometimes, financial institutions interpret uncharacteristic spending during this festive period as nothing more than a holiday shopping spree. Fraudsters know this, and take full advantage when targeting their victims.
There are several types of fraud that we should all be aware of when doing our holiday shopping.
Credit Card fraud, also known as Identity theft, is increasingly prevalent. Whether purchasing online or in retail stores, identity thieves tend to come out of the woodwork during the holiday season intent on ripping off unsuspecting shoppers.
False charities are another way consumers can get ripped off during this special time of year. Crafty fraudsters know how to pull at the heartstrings andexploit the holiday spirit of giving by inventing phony local, national and global charities.
What can consumers do to reduce the possibility they will become victims of fraud?
Use credit cards rather than debit cards, checks or cash. Liability on a stolen or lost credit card is fixed at $50 under Federal law. There is no such limit on debit cards.
Websites that make secure transactions use the “https” protocol rather than the standard “http”. If the URL does not have the letter “s” at the end, it may indicate an un-secured site.
Leave sensitive items normally kept in your wallet at at home when going on a shopping trip. Items like drivers licenses and social security cards should be kept as close to your person as possible.
Carefully review statements and bills at the end of each month to make sure that there are no unrecognized transactions.
The holiday season is generally a time for celebration and cheer with family and friends. Make sure you take as many precautions as possible to reduce the chances of fraudsters turning you into a victim, and spoiling the true spirit of the holidays.