Every week, the Identity Theft Resource Center works with some of the top experts and organizations in the industry to raise awareness of recent fraud and scam attempts. We place a special emphasis on scams that are either new or are increasing in the number of reported incidences. One of the groups we routinely highlight, Scam Detector, compiles a top ten list each week of just these types of internet crimes.

#1 – Holiday Shopping Scams

When Black Friday rolls around each year, scammers smell easy money. After all, we’re trying to buy great gifts for our friends and family members, but have limited shopping budgets. It can be tempting to fall for internet deals that promise the latest gadgets, but those fake deals only end up offering nothing in return.

These scams can be found in the form of sidebar ads, social media postings, emails, and even individual seller listings on auction websites. Flashy deals that promise you a new iPad for $80, for example, or a new smartphone for a fraction of the cost are probably not legitimate and will leave you with an empty wallet to show for it.

Another popular holiday shopping scam involves the resale of gift cards, in which sellers offer used gift cards or store-specific cards they didn’t want at a huge discount; when your actual card arrives in the mail, though, it turns out to be an empty piece of plastic.

Don’t be tempted by promises of unbelievable savings this holiday season, and remember to keep your retail and internet shopping limited to verified businesses.

#2 – Snow Clearing Service

If you live in an area that is routinely impacted by snow, you may approach winter with a slight sense of dread. Fortunately, there are companies that provide a great service in snow removal and will even offer contracts to clear their customers’ walkways and driveways on a regular basis, determined by the cost of the package ordered.

Unfortunately, there are also plenty of scammers out there, ready to sign you up for the service and take your money, then never lift so much as a snowflake.

As with any service you sign up for, especially one that is seasonal and requires you to sign a contract, make sure you’re dealing with reputable companies that have legitimate business licenses, have reviews from previous customers, and can be tracked down should they fail to deliver. Never sign a contract or pay upfront for a service with an individual who simply shows up at your door or leaves a card in your mailbox without verifying the company first.

#3 – Phone Number Search

As we sit to send out once-a-year holiday cards to friends and family, the internet can be a great resource for looking up addresses. It can also be a trap set by scammers to get your credit card information.

Websites that promise to help you locate an individual’s address or phone number are plentiful, but not all of them are honest. A growing number of these sites promise to retrieve the information you need for only one dollar or some other temptingly low price, but that’s not all they’re going to charge you.

If you take a look at the fine print in the terms of service—a habit that admittedly not many people bother with—you’ll see that you’re actually signing up for a membership with a hefty monthly fee. If you actually manage to get someone on the phone to complain about the charges or cancel the membership, you’ll be hit with a sales pitch that promises you how valuable the service is.

Don’t be fooled by these sites, as there are also reputable sites that provide this information for free. Also be sure to try searching on social media websites before paying to look up any information.

For the rest of the Scam Detector’s top ten list of crimes, check out their website or take a look at the Current Scams & Alerts section of the ITRC website.


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