Community News

Tips to avoid rip-offs during the holidays

Special to Atmore News

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season is here. “What dish should I bring to office Christmas party, what can I get my mother-in-law, and will the weather affect my travel plans” are questions many of us will have this holiday season.
Before the holiday rush consumes you, the Alabama Securities Commission (ASC) would like to pass along a list of suggestions to help safeguard yourself from financial fraudsters and thieves.
*Do not advertise what Santa Claus brought you this year by placing the empty boxes of expensive and popular gifts on the street for would-be thieves to see.
If you have large boxes to discard, take them to the nearest recycling center and dispose of them there; a big television box sitting in your front yard for trash pickup can be a red flag for thieves to break into your home.
*Porch Pirates (a nickname for thieves that steal boxes delivered to your home) believe it is better to receive than give.
Many of us have security cameras to help deter this type of invasion, but Porch Pirates are willing to risk being caught in exchange for the loot on your porch. If you are having packages coming to your home, use your retailer’s tracking system on your cell phone and plan on being there to receive the packages.
*Be very cautious of where you charge your phone or tablet, if you do so through a public device.
“Juice Jacking” is one of the latest methods that hackers are using to hack into our electronic devices and access personal information. The best way to protect yourself from being a victim of this scam may be to buy a portable charging device to charge your electronics when traveling this season or to purchase and use a USB data-blocker device when charging your phone or computers via a public USB charging station.
*Gift cards can be an easy solution as gifts for people who appear to have everything. Scamsters have figured out ways to access the money that you put on gift cards by capturing the card number and the information on the back of the card.
They are notified when money is put on the card and then take the money immediately, leaving your family member or friend stunned when they try to use the card and find out it has a zero balance. Inspect the gift card before you purchase it and pick a new one if the packaging looks to be tampered with.
*If someone gifts you with a great investment opportunity this holiday season, check it out. Timing is an important factor in a successful fraud and what a great time it is for fraudsters to camouflage their investment scheme as an act of good will towards his fellow man.
“The New Year is right around the corner, and I have a once-in-a lifetime investment opportunity for you starting in 2020” is one of the hooks a fraudster may use to coax in a new victim.
In order to protect yourself from an investment fraud, call the Alabama Securities Commission at 1-800-222-1253 and make sure the person making the offer is licensed and his or her product is registered.
The Alabama Securities Commission regulates the “main street” investing industry in Alabama.
ASC is committed to protecting investors against securities fraud and provides aggressive enforcement actions against any firm or individual who has violated the Alabama Securities Act — which provides for the licensing and regulation of securities broker-dealers, agents, investment advisers and investment adviser representatives, and financial planners — or other state and federal statutes to the detriment of Alabama investors.