Here are some tips for how to avoid holiday scammers this winter:
1. Don’t give out personal information over email or social media accounts unless you know who you’re talking with and trust them completely. This applies especially during the holidays when there are so many people sending out mass emails inviting people into private Facebook groups or other social media accounts where they say they’ll share free gifts or prizes if they just join up.
2. Never wire money to someone who contacts you unexpectedly via email, text message or social media — even if they claim to be a family member in need of help.
3. Don’t send money through Western Union or MoneyGram to anyone who contacts you unexpectedly — even if they claim to be a family member in need of help. Instead, pick up the phone and call them directly to verify if they really need assistance before sending any funds by wire transfer services like these two companies offer.
4. Beware of emails that contain grammar errors or typos because they’re often part of phishing scams designed to get your personal information, such as credit card numbers and Social Security numbers.
5. Never provide personal information to someone who visits you at home or calls you on the phone about a prize or sweepstakes that you supposedly won in a contest. These scams typically involve having to pay an upfront fee in order to claim your prize. No legitimate sweepstakes require participants to pay money upfront before collecting prizes, which are generally awarded in one lump sum by check or direct deposit rather than by monthly installments over several months.
6. Be wary of offers from people who say they’re from local government agencies, such as police departments and fire departments, offering gifts or prizes of any kind as part of their holiday celebrations. Local governments don’t normally offer prizes in exchange for donations.