July 16th, 2024

Don’t let the Grinch steal Christmas: LPS warn of holiday scams

By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on December 15, 2022.

Herald photo by Alejandra Pulido-Guzman LPS Sgt. Kevin Talbot speaks to reporters Wednesday at Lethbridge Police station about multiple scams going around during the holiday season, as police are hoping to raise awareness among residents.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

Lethbridge police are raising awareness on holiday scams and asking residents to take steps to protect themselves and prevent scammers from stealing Christmas.

On Wednesday, LPS Sergeant Kevin Talbot from the Economic Crimes Unit said fraudsters are working to take advantage of the hustle and bustle of the holidays, and one of the most prevalent scams police are seeing locally involves victims receiving a text, email or phone call advising a package is awaiting delivery but there are unpaid fees that must be collected first.

“When it comes to protecting yourself from fraud, don’t trust any unsolicited communication whatsoever, whether that be a pop-up screen, an e-mail, text message or call,” said Talbot.

He said that as many people are expecting packages this time of year, it may seem legitimate but he cautions residents to beware.

Talbot said that in addition to frauds related to package delivery, thefts of packages are also common during the holidays.

“To avoid being victimized, do not leave packages on your doorstep. Either arrange delivery for a time when you will be home or have items sent to a work address, or a friend who will be available to accept delivery,” said Talbot.

He said that another issue to look for is mail theft and LPS is asking residents to safeguard their mail, including cards that may contain a little something for Christmas morning, by collecting their mail daily.

For those who are sending holiday cheques, LPS recommends to drop off those cards and other valuable mail items directly at the post office or if that’s not possible, drop it in a mailbox as close to the scheduled pick-up time as possible.

In the case of being away from home during the holidays, LPS recommends suspending mail delivery until you return or have a friend make daily collections to avoid mail theft.

Unfortunately those are not the only type of scams going around during the holiday season, others to watch for include:

-Gift card tampering – scammers attend retailers and apply a fake barcode over top of the original and when scanned to activate the card, the money is loaded onto a different card leaving the purchaser with a worthless piece of plastic. Buy digital gift cards or be sure to inspect cards purchased from retailers for signs of tampering (stickers over top of bar codes, textures that don’t match the rest of the card).

-Secret Santa – you may have noticed gift exchange posts on social media feeds stating you only have to send one gift to receive multiple gifts in return. These exchanges collect personal information and also hides a pyramid scheme where only those on top profit.

-Counterfeit merchandise – where websites are created to look like legitimate manufacturers and offer products at a significant discount. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. Be sure to thoroughly research a site before making a purchase.

-Fake charities – scammers prey on goodwill during the holidays. Confirm a charity is registered before providing any personal or financial information.

-Online shopping – fraudsters pose as genuine sellers and post fake ads for items that do not exist. The listing price is usually an unbelievable deal. Buyer beware! Research before you buy, do not pay upfront and when possible, exchange goods in person.

-Emergency – a supposed loved one reaches out to you because they need money for an emergency and you’re the only one they trust to keep it a secret. Resist the urge to act immediately and take steps to verify identity by asking questions only the real person could answer correctly.

-Prize notifications – you receive an email, message or letter saying you’ve won a prize but need to pay a fee upfront to claim it. Don’t.

-Cryptocurrency scams – fraudsters use social media and fraudulent websites to lure investors. Prior to investing ask for details about the investment, research the organization and verify if the company is registered. 

“Usually what they try to do is make you feel like you have to act quickly, so often when that happens individuals lose sight of protecting themselves and they forget some of the fundamental things that you would normally ask if you had the time to ask, and that’s where they become victimized citizens,” said Talbot.

He encouraged residents to call the Police non-emergency line to report crimes as they will try to help in any way they can. Unfortunately in some cases when money is being exchanged and transferred out of country, it is difficult to track and get it back to the victim, but they deal with every case separately.

“Feel free to call us and we can give you an idea of what you’re dealing with, and if we’ve dealt with it before. We would gladly help someone feel more secure about sharing their information and their money,” said Talbot.

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