• Shoppers typically spend $3.19 trillion during
the holiday season each year in the United States
• BPD Chief Bobby Welliver urges people to be
cautious as they shop and to protect their personal
• Scammers and thieves could ruin your holiday.
When it is time to checkout at a store, Boonville resident Georgia Esser does not mind when a clerk asks her for identification. For Esser, this extra step in making sure she is who she states she is, is greatly appreciated. In years past Esser has not always appreciated the extra effort to make sure the identification was correct, but in today’s world of fraud and identity theft, this extra step can go along way in making sure no one is using someone else’s money, especially during the holidays.
Historically, people spend more during the Christmas season. According to statista.com, the retail industry had a total of $3.19 trillion sales in the United States in 2013. With the spending volume increasing, so does the scamming probability.
Boonville Police Chief Bobby Welliver stated the department doesn't have any noticeable difference in fraud reports during the holiday season, but reminds area resident to use common sense while shopping and make sure they protect their personal information and the information on credit cards and debit cards.
“We also urge people to make sure any packages delivered to their residences be picked up as soon as possible. Thieves may drive through neighborhoods during the holiday season looking for packages that have been dropped off and left outside. Please report anything that seems suspicious to 911 or 660-882-2727,” Welliver stated.
The University Extension wants people to safeguard their identity, especially during these heightened spending times.
Based on Federal Trade Commission data, Missouri ranked fourth in the nation for identity theft fraud in 2014,” University of Missouri Extension family financial education specialist Virgil Woolridge said. “Identity theft is when someone steals your personal information and uses it without permission. It can damage your finances, credit history and reputation. Identity theft can wreck your life.
The following are ways the extension believes will help safeguard individuals from fraud:
• Check your credit reports at least once a year, and more frequently if you suspect a problem. You can get a free credit report annually from annualcreditreport.com or by calling 1-877-322-8228.
• Make photocopies of your credit cards, front and back, and put in a secure location.
• Use strong passwords on your computer.
• Be sure to use a reputable tax preparer. Your income tax information contains a large amount of data that an identity thief could use.
• Don’t give your financial information to a paid caregiver. Do not have them make your bank deposits. Safeguard credit reports, tax returns, bank and credit statements, Social Security cards and your date of birth.
• Review your bank account and billing statements monthly for unauthorized charges. Check with the creditor if you don’t receive a bill when expected. Sometimes identity thieves will request a change of address for your bills.
• Check on calls from debt collectors for debts that aren’t yours.
• Shred sensitive documents.
The AARP has advice on several shopping scenarios that help keep consumers safe.
“During the holidays, scammers, working like type A elves, try to steal money and personal information from unsuspecting shoppers. One popular scheme: rogue websites that appear on your search engine results when you type in the names of hot-selling gifts or even terms such as ‘discount toys.’ Promising deals, the sites instead steal credit card information, passwords and other sensitive data when you click on links infected with malware. (The same can apply to holiday-themed videos that fraudsters post on Facebook.,” according to the AARP. “Also, beware of what's known as cybersquatting, in which crooks steal or slightly alter the website address of a well-known company to launch a copycat site that may be a spot-on replica of the real thing. While these sites may have malware, they primarily function to collect your credit card information for the purchase of inferior counterfeit goods — assuming you actually receive them. So when shopping online, carefully read website addresses before clicking, to ensure you're headed to a recognized and legitimate vendor. Once on the site, look for phone numbers and street addresses (versus just email addresses and P.O. box numbers) as signs of legitimate vendors. You can check who owns the website's address at Whois.net.”
Charity frauds are also prevalent during the holiday season.
“Once again, unless you provided your email address to an organization, assume that all email solicitations bearing that charity's name are scams. Don't provide credit card information to phone solicitors. Keep a close ear for sound-alike names, such as the National Heart Association instead of the legit American Heart Association. Be especially suspicious of heartstring-pulling solicitations to supposedly benefit disabled veterans, police and firefighters, or sick or needy children (those conning causes most often target older donors). When in doubt, check a charity's legitimacy,” according to AARP.
While there are several ways to be scammed during the Christmas holiday, it is recommended to be a little safer this holiday season as scammers find new methods in making a joyous time into a nightmare.