It’s That Time Of Year: Endless Mail, Telephone Calls and Ringing Kettles

It’s That Time Of Year: Endless Mail, Telephone Calls and Ringing Kettles

Every year around this time my blood pressure goes up as the endless charities come out of the woodwork.

The Holiday Season brings them out as the charities “tag team” onto the generosity they hope will come their way in the form of checks and cash.  Now don’t get me wrong I have nothing against charitable giving but there has to be a limit for many people – if not morally then financially.

In Rogers, Arkansas, the residents have come up with a giving plan that declares the Tuesday before Thanksgiving to be called “Generous Tuesday” launching an effort that will run through Christmas.  The problem for most consumers is that there are many good charities out there but mixed in with them are thousands of scams.  Each year it seems that new scams surface.

Watch out for offers of free iPads.  All you have to do is provide your credit card number – sure!  How about messages from friends and family that request money?   Many of these messages will arrive through the social network Facebook.  Watch out for fake gift cards.  They offer basically free gifts in exchange for your personal information.  The one that hurts the most is the offer of Holiday jobs.  All you have to do is fill out their enclosed questionnaire that includes tons of your personal information.  Phishing texts will hit the Internet in thousands of forms all designed to look like it is coming from a bank or retailer.

Nothing is sacred when it comes to charitable scams.  Several of the most popular in years past are the Tsunami Victim Scam and the Virginia Tech Charity Scam.  Both these scams looked like legitimate based Internet official funds and believe it or not they were set up at the time as the real sites.  The Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates that following Hurricane Katrina, over 4,600 websites popped up either claiming to be able to send money to the Katrina relief effort or claiming actually to be a Katrina relief effort.  There is no doubt in my mind that the same approach has taken place after the recent Hurricane Sandy disaster on the East Coast.

The purpose of most scams is identity theft.  Many ask for checks or money to be sent to them but the majority of them want your personal information such as your social security number or credit card information.  Beware of any email or telephone call that you receive asking for any type of unsolicited information.  Protect your trash.  Scammers have paid people to collect and go through trash that is deposited at the street for collection.  This is commonly called “dumpster diving”.   Never just discard pre-approved credit card letters.  Shred them!  Dumpster divers can use these discarded pre-approved credit letters to complete the application and change the address and you will not even know that a credit card was just opened in your name.  Never trust your caller ID as this is absolutely not secure and addresses can be purchased through the telephone company.  I get a call from the American Cancer Society at least that is what the caller ID says so it must be correct.  Absolutely not!  Many scam charities like to appear like the real site and in many cases they adopt names that are quite similar. How about the charity for Disabled Vets?

The best advice I can give is to protect yourself at all times.  Never send money or give personal details to people you don’t know and trust.   If you feel charitable, contact the charity direct by having them send you information.  Log directly into websites you are interested in rather than clicking on links provided in an email.  Never send your credit card or bank details in an email.  I would rather see people pick one charity during the Holidays and support that and only that charity.  There are hundreds of good causes in today’s troubled times but rather than live with the “Holiday Guilt Trip,” support your charity and hope that others do the same.

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Written by
Donald Wittmer