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Police Warn of 'Biggest Scams' During the Holiday Season

Don't let the grinches out there ruin Christmas.

From charity scams to bogus holiday sweepstakes, police want residents to watch out for grinches who aren't just out to steal Christmas.

Palos Park police say scammers are taking advantage of the hustle and bustle that comes with the holiday season.

Millions of Target shoppers were targeted by text scam artists last week with messages claiming they won a $1,000 gift card, police said. Others have been hit with emails from retailers and delivery services. Victims clicked on links that introduced malware onto their phones or computers.

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The Better Business Bureau offered some common complaints:

  • Emergencies: A scam artist posing as a relative of yours (or who has set up an online dating profile to lure you in) says he or she is in an emergency situation and asks you to wire money right away.
  • Overpayment: You sell something online or perform a service, and someone accidentally overpays you and asks you to return the balance. The original check bounces, and then you’re out the money you sent.
  • Job offers: You receive an unsolicited job offer, often saying you can work from home, with promises of high earnings with no experience needed. The catch? You have to send money to secure the offer, and the person contacting you then disappears, leaving you with no job and out the money you sent. And don't forget the emails offering work as a “secret shopper,” someone who acts as a customer at a business and then rates its service and professionalism. One victim was looking for work and decided to give it a try, and received a $950 money order with instructions to perform two transactions, deduct her commission and send the remaining $700 back through a money order. She got suspicious and never cashed the money order.
  • Loans or other financial help: A bogus company offers to help you deal with your creditors for a fee, and then provides no help.
  • Phishing: An unsolicited email asks you to provide or confirm your personal information. Some of these are quite convincing and appear to be from the government or legitimate businesses.
  • Sweepstakes: Someone contacts you saying you’ve won cash or some other large prize, and then either asks for your personal information or tells you to wire money to cover “taxes and fees,” leaving you with no prize and no way to recover the money you sent.
  • Phony contractors: Someone will knock on your door, saying they see a problem with your home and can offer you a deal on repairs. The person will either do no work or possibly damage your home, and then move on before you spot the problem. Though scam artists will change up the details of their ploy, there are a few easy ways to protect yourself! Never give your bank account number, Social Security number or other sensitive personal or financial data in response to an unsolicited phone call or email.

As the old saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Consider any offer sent to you and whether it actually could be the real deal or a big scam.

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Suburban Mom December 11, 2012 at 03:24 PM
I received two separate Target text's to my phone saying I had won... Did not respond as I never entered a contest... but how do they have my cell phone #?

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