When you donate this Christmas make sure you know where it’s going!

12 December 2022- It is everyone’s favorite time of the year, especially scammers who seek to capitalize on people’s general goodwill and the influx of online shopping during this time.

   The Bait and Switch: Take retailers’ advertisements to the store with you. Unscrupulous retailers may advertise goods at low prices, but when you get to the store the price may be higher than advertised or the product might not be there at all.
   Skimming Devices: During the holidays last year, police were called to a retailer at the King of Prussia mall to remove a skimming device from one store’s register. Sometimes skimming devices are placed on gas pumps or ATMs to capture data from the magnetic stripe on the back of credit and debit cards. If something looks out of place or easily wiggles, use a different ATM, gas pump or register.
   “Cybersquatting” Sites: Crooks try to impersonate well-known websites by inverting characters or slightly altering the name of a well-known website. The copycat sites may look similar to the real website – and they can steal your credit information. Carefully read website addresses to ensure you are shopping on a legitimate website.
   Copycat and Fraudulent Websites: Fake websites set up by scammers target online shoppers during the holiday season. Sometimes appearing as ad results in online searches, these sites may contain malware or steal inputted credit card data. Avoid making purchases from untrustworthy sites.
 •  Security Certificates: To ensure you are shopping on a secure website, make sure the website begins with “https” and has a small padlock icon next to the webpage address. Keep your computer, tablet or smartphone up-to-date and install security software.
 •  Retailers Who Request Payment through Wire Transfer: Legitimate online businesses will not use wire transfer to collect payment for purchases. This is a sure sign of a scam.

Consumers should also be aware that although gift cards can be a versatile and practical holiday gift, they are also often used by scammers. Remember, no government agency will ever ask you to pay a fine, fee or penalty with a gift card. If you receive a call telling you to pay a debt or some other cost via gift card, that is a red flag of a scam. Hang up immediately. Once a scammer has the codes and pins from a gift card, it is extremely difficult to recover any funds.

Pennsylvanians who believe they have been victims of a holiday scam can file a complaint with the Office of Attorney General Bureau of Consumer Protection at 800-441-2555, or scams@attorneygeneral.gov. To receive scam alerts from the Office of Attorney General, click here.