Scam artists prey on the innocent year around but they come out in droves during the holidays. They portray themselves as helpers. The Bible warns against these individuals in the book of Matthew:
They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. (Matt. 7:15 NIV)
Most everyone who has a roof over their heads and food to eat during winter feels inclined to help those less fortunate. Even if their budget is a bit tight, people are spurred into action with all of the emotions surrounding Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Humans are, after all, searching for “the mystic chords of memory [that] will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature,” President Abraham Lincoln.
Take Time to Double Check Before Giving
Too many times scams are successful for two reasons; one, people are too busy or preoccupied to double check the source, and two, the scammers are extremely convincing. Oftentimes, police close down illegal operations after bad-actors have already taken advantage of innocent people.
Because the world is filled with deceivers, it is vital to verify who is actually asking for help. If choosing to donate money, food, clothing, or gifts it is best to double check the organization’s collection methods directly from their offices. When possible, give directly not through a middleman.
- Avoid giving online. Scam sites’ developers buy domain names that are eerily similar to legitimate organizations in order to steal from unsuspecting donors.
- Avoid giving in response to an email. Scammers use logos of charitable organizations that appear to be real.
- Avoid giving over the phone. Robocalls are abundant during the holidays. Many are illegitimate and take money and credit card information of their marks.
Be On Alert for These Scams and More
With homelessness at an all-time high, both reputable organizations and flighty groups solicit funds. Often individuals portray themselves to be representing time-honored agencies, such as a Red Cross, Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, and international homeless agencies.
Some of the individuals on the street corner holding cardboard signs are only there to play on the sympathies of others. Their pleas frequently use terms like homeless, single mom; veteran, need food, stranded need money for gas, etc.
Reportedly, those who use this method to scam others are in it for the paycheck. “A beggar in Oklahoma City, OK makes $60k per year or $30 per hour average,” according to My Personal Finance Journey website.
Social media sites are notorious for illegally scamming users. KGW8 News in Portland, Oregon posted a reminder about the supposed “secret sisters gift exchange,” which is an online form of a chain-letter designed to feed a carefully constructed pyramid scheme. Posts similar to the image to the left offer a great return on a small donation.
The wording may vary, with requests of wine, or gift cards. Snopes reported similar Facebook posts began circulating sometime in October 2015.
Other types of holiday scams seek to steal identities. A website dedicated to teaching against this atrocious battle lists 12 schemes to separate people and their security.
Email phishing is a year-round scheme that increases during the fall and winter holiday season. Such emails, if opened, can infect the device being used with malware. Whereas, another designed to gather credit card information uses false claims about packages misdelivered or requests for more shipping fees.
Social media is an issue. It is highly recommended users do not share posts from unknown sources. More importantly, do not open the post link as it is likely to contain code that will contaminate the user’s device with trojan horses or worse.
Unfortunately, these wolves in sheep’s clothing are devious. Their ultimate goal is to steal something of value from people who are uninformed or careless. It is important to keep anything worth stealing, like a purse, wallet, backpack, laptop, and parcels out of sight and out of reach.
Authorities frequently remind everyone to be safe, protect themselves against scamming thieves. They warn people to remain diligent in protecting personal financial and identity information. Keep in mind the valuable lesson taught with this old adage: “If it sounds too good to be true, that’s probably because it is.”
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
KGW8 News: Holiday Reminder: The ‘secret sisters gift exchange’ is a scam
My Personal Finance Journey: How Much Money Do Beggars and Street Performers Make?
Fight Identity Theft: 12 Scams of Christmas
Featured Image Courtesy of Antonio Castagna’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
First Inset Image Courtesy of ROBERTO CARLOS PECINO MARTINEZ’ Flickr Page – Creative Common License
Second Inset Image Created by Cathy Milne-Ware Using Quote of a Facebook Post