In less than two weeks, most of us will be sitting around a table laden with a traditional Thanksgiving feast, spending quality time with family members and reminiscing about days gone by and making plans for 2014.
After the dishes are done and the leftovers are wrapped up for the turkey-sandwiches to enjoy, many people have taken on a shopping tradition the day after Thanksgiving called Black Friday. Black Friday shopping seems to start earlier and earlier each year. This popular day in the United States marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping season, one of the most profitable times of the year for the retail industry.
As you start to think about who is on your Christmas list and what you plan to get them, I urge you to use caution when you purchase gifts, particularly if you tend to buy things online, with mail orders or over the phone. Congressional statistics show that people in the U.S. lose an estimated $4 billion in mail scams and $40 billion in telemarketing fraud each year. Data compiled from the complaints shows that about 53 percent of unwanted calls are about credit card interest rate reduction scams and 13 percent deal with sweepstakes or prize-related scams. It may sound cliché but if the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. ID theft is another serious issue to watch out for, and is one that could seriously damage your credit score and financial situation.
Here are some tips from the FBI and Senior Living to help keep you safe this holiday season.
Telemarketing Scams and Online Purchases
1. Don’t buy from an unfamiliar company.
2. Always ask for and wait until you receive written material about any offer or charity.
3. Obtain a salesperson’s name, business identity, telephone number, street address, mailing address and business license number before you transact business.
4. Always take your time in making a decision.
5. Find out what actions the website/company takes if a problem occurs and consider insuring the transaction and shipment.
6. Examine the feedback on the seller.
7. Determine what method of payment the seller is asking from you.
8. If possible, purchase items online using your credit card because you can often dispute the charges if something goes wrong.
9. If you have information about a fraud, report it to state, local or federal law enforcement agencies.
Many senior scam perpetrators make calls or send emails on behalf of a financial institution. For example, they may say there's a problem with your bank or credit card account and ask you to verify the account numbers. If you get one of these calls, ask for a name and phone number you can call back, and make that call to ensure you are dealing with a legitimate company. If you cannot verify that the request is legitimate, do not provide the information.
The Indiana Attorney General’s website has many important resources, such as the ID Theft Prevention Toolkit, which outlines some necessary steps to reduce the risk of identity theft and assists those who have fallen prey to identity theft to correct their records after a scam. More information on the tools and resources available to shield Hoosiers from scams are available at www.IN.gov/attorneygeneral.
Holidays should be about family and traditions, not the stress of dealing with the backlash from ID theft and scammers. Take the time to protect yourself and your loved ones.
I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and a Merry Christmas.
Rep. Ober represents all of Noble County and portion of Allen, Elkhart, LaGrange and Whitley counties.