How to avoid scams that seem to pop up around the holidays


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — ‘Tis the season for holiday scams and recently a teleconference was held to get the word out about some of the most common scams making the rounds.

That teleconference went live on social media to 65,000 AARP members around North Carolina, but what seniors learned applies to everyone because scammers don’t care about age.

People asked questions to the panel by phone, which the panel said also said happens to be the scammers favorite tool because by using a telephone for ear-to-ear contact, crooks can use an emotional hook.

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“Everything they are trying to do is change your emotional state to make you excited, unhappy or scared,” said North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein.

As a result of that manipulation, he says, “You lose your rational sense and lose your sense of what’s a good thing to do with your hard earned cash.”

The AARP panel told its audience of a Wall Street Journal report that said 23 million packages ordered online won’t reach their destination because they’ll be stolen right off the porch.

And scammers are using a new twist to steal those packages without being noticed.

Detective Mike Copeland, who is the financial crimes investigator in the Chatham County Sheriff’s office says the scammers will drive up in a van, wearing some sort of uniform to make it look like they are a delivery service contractor.

“They may actually walk up to the porch with a box —- it’s empty —- and put it on the porch…it looks normal. Then they pick up your box and drive away,” Copeland says.

The panel also advised consumers not to buy gift cards off the rack because the protective covering over the code number may have been tampered with by a scammer. That allows a criminal can cash it in as soon as you purchase the car, leaving you with a useless gift.

Consumers were told they should buy gift cards directly from a store cashier instead to minimize tampering.

Scam charities also pop up this time of year. The North Carolina Secretary of State says counterfeit charity websites abound online.

“People will put up websites with sound-alike names or take a legitimate website and put their own contact information on it so that it goes to their bank account —- not the charity’s bank account,” says Elaine Marshall.

Marshall advises giving directly to the charity after you have called them and verified their actual address. She says don’t use the number on a website, or email solicitation to determine that number. Look it up yourself.

With so many scams originating overseas, the experts on the panel said it’s important to stop the money grab before it happens because once cash has gone overseas, it’s almost impossible to get back

If you’d like to watch the entire AARP seminar, it runs 1 hour and is available on this Facebook account.

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