The holidays are upon us and for most it’s a time of joy, sharing and goodwill to all. However, some people believe sharing is a one-way street leading to their own doorstep. They want to take advantage of the goodwill that these holidays taught us to believe in.
For example, I recently received a text on my phone saying, “Your TD Access Card is blocked due to unusual activities.” Rather than dealing with someone who didn’t know me, I went to my local bank to ask what the problem was. They instructed me to put my card into the reader. Then they told me that in fact I was never blocked and could they see the text on my phone.
I was lucky, they said, that I didn’t respond to the text as my phone could have been hacked – possibly leading to identity theft and access to my bank accounts. It seems that the kindergarten warning of “stranger-danger” also applies to adults, especially me.
I’m not saying that we should become paranoid, but just look at things a little more carefully. For instance, take the “Want Your Grandchild Home for Christmas?” scam. That’s where you get a call, email or text saying that one of them will be going to jail for the holidays unless a fine is paid.
As a loving grandparent you want to help. In fact, this is a common scam. Ask what police station they are talking about or where they have been imprisoned. Phone that place (not the phone number the person gave you) using Canada 411. Even better, try to contact your grandchild directly. They’ll probably ask if you’ve been sipping too much rum and eggnog because they’re fine and in no danger of incarceration.
This is a variation of the “Emergency Scam” in which you are told that a loved one needs money right now and you are being contacted because they trust you to keep this a secret. You could tell them you want to have the loved one call you and start asking the caller questions to see if they really know the loved one. Once again, the better bet is to immediately hang up and contact the person you know. No police force in Canada would ever demand money in this fashion.
Another set-up in the holiday season is the fake toy-shop website. Prices are usually too good to be true. Some scammers in this category pose as a delivery service, saying they have a parcel ready to deliver and to click on a link. If you do, your phone is now hacked. Never click on a link sent to your phone from an unknown person.
Then there is the counterfeit merchandise scam. Dude, that Rolex is fake. You can’t buy one for a few hundred dollars. The website may have looked legitimate, but that flashy, huge discount should incite you to verify directly with the company. Better yet, block the website. If you are buying from a site like Craigslist, then arrange to meet them in person.
If you’ve been taken in, ensure your credit card is frozen as soon as possible. That way, no loans in your name can be taken out or any new accounts opened. Let the police know what has happened and follow their advice.
In this way we can all enjoy the holidays and hopefully force those Christmas Grinches to starve from a lack of your hard-earned money.