Safeguarding yourself from scams and frauds is a year-long task. However, as the holiday season is now upon us, the North Dakota Attorney General’s Office cautions all to take extra care when thinking of giving and receiving.
By Melissa Anderson
North Dakota nice is a way of life, and the generosity of the state’s population only increases during the most wonderful time of the year. Scammers like to take advantage of that giving spirit by posing as a charity to gain money from those just looking to make the season brighter.
“Scammers really take advantage of fake charity solicitations in various forms such as email, social media, by text and even by telephone calls,” Parrell Grossman, Director of the Consumer Protection and Anti-Trust division of the North Dakota Attorney General’s Office, explained.
Before donating to any charity, unless it’s one that is already familiar, Grossman advises consumers to carefully check it out. Online resources that have a substantial list of known charities are available. Grossman shared some that are very easy for consumers to access include give.org, guidestar.org, and charitynavigator.org. In North Dakota, the Secretary of State registers charitable organizations and also has a list of authorized charities that can operate and receive donations within the state.
Another popular holiday scam is the emergency scam. The Attorney General’s office urges consumers to be cautious should they receive messages or calls from “friends” or “relatives” claiming to be in an accident, arrested, or hospitalized while in another country. The scam also sometimes uses the “stranded veteran/soldier” using the love and appreciation of military service members to open up checkbooks to give money.
“It has a broader and more specific appeal because it’s occurring during holidays. Again, I think we are more susceptible to these kinds of things and sometimes consumers just don’t do their homework,” Grossman shared.
Goodwill towards one another can be found on social media during the holiday season in the form of a phony gift exchange. These are often called the “Secret Santa”, Secret Santa Program, or the “Secret Sister Gift Exchange”. These scams promise that if the consumer sends one gift they could get so many gifts back. These are actually illegal pyramids and most, if not all, participants who participate or join in this will get burned. In fact, participation has led to prosecution, which has occurred in the past, according to Grossman.
Other favorite holiday scams include the fake shipping notifications in emails. These links often include malware that gathers personal information after being clicked on and enables the download of the software that will then collect sensitive information.
E-cards and gift cards also pose dangers. For e-cards, things to look out for as red flags include the sender not being clear or being asked to share personal information to get the card. Gift cards are a common and easy gift when gifting is hard. Grossman states that the more sophisticated thieves are able to steal the value of the gift cards before they are even purchased by a consumer.
“If you have just the slightest bit of doubt, please pick up the phone and call the Attorney General’s consumer protection hotline and ask us,” Grossman said.
Consumers should always feel free to call the North Dakota Attorney General’s Consumer Protection hotline at 1-800-472-2600.