October 18, 2019

I’m Happy that It’s Here, but Beware

From Thanksgiving to New Years, the scams, the charities, both good and bad, the telephone calls for the Police Sergeants Fund, the theft of packages off porches, the theft from cars in the Malls, on and on. They all come out of the wood work to fleece the unsuspecting seniors and consumers as well as the general public.

It is the time of the year when you have to be more aware of a threat to your personal safety as well as to the threat of home invasions. Do not answer solicitations that come in the mail or over the telephone. Hang up the phone or just plain don’t answer it. Do not be fooled by the incoming caller’s number as it is easy to rent these numbers and scam artists do it all the time.

If you are having items delivered to your porch, keep an eye for the package or have a neighbor retrieve it. One set of thieves made it a point to follow the UPS driver while he did his route and pilfer as many packages as they could off porches.

Do not answer surveys over the phone or sent to you in the mail. Never give out personal information to anyone. One scam that still is somewhat popular is the “you have won a trip or a cruise and we just need you to cover the port fees or a small deposit to cover the trip. Do you want to put that deposit on your credit card?” Ask for any request for money to be sent to you in the mail. Good chance the request will never come.

Do not leave packages in your car where they can be seen. Many stores and Malls have a package pick-up where your purchases can be retrieved after you have finished your shopping.

Never leave your purse in your car or your cell phone or lap top on the front seat. A group of young men spent all day walking between the lanes of cars in the Mall trying every door handle to look for one that was left unlocked. Avoid ATM’s in gas stations, bars, liquor stores, or any place where a skimmer could be easily installed. A skimmer can pick up the information from your credit card without you even realizing that your information is being stolen. It is placed in the ATM for a few hours and later retrieved.

Beware of charity calls. There are many good charities but if you feel a great need to contribute, do it after the Holidays when there is a real chance that the charity will still be around. Most phony charity solicitations are made by telephone. They say they represent the American Cancer Fund or the Fireman’s Widows Fund. They generally want you to contribute right then by placing a small donation on your credit card. Hang up the telephone.

Remember the old but true “do not carry rules.” Do not carry your Social Security card, your Medicare card, blank checks, passport, or birth certificate. Leave medical insurance cards at home while you shop. Carry only one or two credit cards. There is no need to carry multiple store credit cards. You can give your name to the store clerk and he or she can look up your account in their system. Guard your purse.

Try to limit the times that you shop alone. Use a valet service if it is available. Be cautious when you carry packages to your car especially if it is at night and you have parked in lane Y about a quarter mile from the Mall.

We all want to have a Merry Christmas but some people want to have that Merry Christmas at your expense.

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Written by
Donald Wittmer

DONALD WITTMER is a retired business executive who held key roles in the automotive and banking sectors. For a time, he also served as a Fiscal Agency Manager for the Detroit branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. He received his undergraduate degree from Cincinnati's Xavier University, an M.A. in business management from Central Michigan University, and earned certification in bank operations from the School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A husband, father, and grandfather, he teaches part-time at the Kent Place School for Girls in Summit, New Jersey.

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1 comment
  • Just to be very clear and safe. The real American Cancer Fund NEVER calls you. We do not use telemarketers or any high pressure sales tactics. If you receive a call saying they are the American Cancer Fund please ask them for their phone number, write it down, and then call or email us. We prosecute scammers.
    Our phone # is (908) 431-9800 and our website is http://www.AmericanCancerFund.org and you can click on the contact us link under ‘about us’ tab to send an email.
    Have a merry and safe Christmas.
    Mrs S. Lerer
    Chief financial officer
    American Cancer Fund

Written by Donald Wittmer
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