Be wary of Internet scam artists at the holidays

WASHINGTON — The holiday season brings time with the family, large amounts of food, gifts galore — and scams.

“Holidays, like disasters, are a common time for scams to increase,” said Ed Mierzwinski, director of the consumer program at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

With the convenience of online shopping, consumers need to consider the possibility of identity theft. Other holiday rip-offs might not seem as obvious — disguising themselves through advertisements, fake charities or gift cards — but they are a threat nonetheless.

According to an October National Retail Federation survey, one-quarter of consumers plan on completing 26 percent to 50 percent of their holiday shopping online this year. Mierzwinski recommends the use of credit cards — not debit cards — when shopping online; money comes directly out of a customer’s account when purchasing with a debit card.

If someone is a victim of identity theft using a credit card, they still will have to undergo an investigation to validate the fraud, but they won’t lose the money in their account.

Other important tips:

•Make sure your shopping sites are legit: National Consumers League Executive Director Sally Greenberg said consumers should check the legitimacy of online shopping websites, especially when buying from unknown stores, and read the return policies. The goal before making a purchase, according to Greenberg, is to “get a sense that they’re the real thing.”

Be wary of cut-rate pricing: Online advertisements for merchandise priced well below the product’s typical cost are a trick used by scammers looking to get personal identification from consumers or to install malware.

As a precaution, Breyault said, people should have their antivirus software up to date when shopping online; he also recommended using stores’ smartphone applications when checking prices, because they are more secure than searching the Web.

•Watch out for charity scams: Phone calls and websites can solicit information from donors by posing as charities, and then steal from those who fall for the trap.

Mierzwinski said potential donors should use websites to check the legitimacy of charities, including GuideStar USA Inc. www.guidestar.org and CharityWatch www.charitywatch.org. Fraudulent charities can disguise themselves by using names and Web addresses similar to real ones.

More in Herald Business Journal

Driving the Dodge Demon, the world’s fastest production car

Our test took place at US 131 Motorsports Park, on a fully prepped professional drag strip.

Mountlake Terrace-based 1st Security Bank wasn’t traded publicly during the recession, but it has seen a steady growth since the recession. (Jim Davis / HBJ)
How stocks in local banks fared since the recession

Every bank was hit hard during the recession, but most have bounced back in a big way.

A look at what some stores have planned for Black Friday

With unemployment low, stores are hoping customers are in a mood to shop.

Boeing bolsters team for potential 797 with leading engineer

Terry Beezhold has been chief project engineer for the 777X program.

Tom Hoban
Are millennials warming up to life in suburbia?

They dominate the apartment market and their wants need to be accounted for, says columnist Tom Hoban.

Camano artist mixes flask, paintings for successful cocktail

Art flasks prove popular as bachelorette gifts, birthday presents and wedding favors.

Katie Garrison
New agent joins Re/Max Elite’s office in Snohomish

Re/Max Elite welcomed a new agent to its Snohomish office. Katie Garrison… Continue reading

UW Bothell Pub Talk looks at Greenhouse Gas Mystery

The Greenhouse Gas Mystery is the topic for the next UW Bothell… Continue reading

EvergreenHealth Monroe pharmacy interns travel to Ghana

Earlier this year, University of Washington School of Pharmacy students and EvergreenHealth… Continue reading

Most Read