Scammers Taking Advantage of Your Holiday Spirit

Every year we hear it but someone somewhere inevitably falls victim to holiday scams. The nicer you are the higher your chances are of getting bamboozled by one of these goons

Phone scams…

Charities that are legitimate are furiously fundraising right now, door to door, at stores, via email, and snail mail. Before you just hand over your money take some time to research them. Do they have a website? How are their ratings? What amount of money they take in actually goes to the intended cause? Are they in good standing with the IRS and the state they are registered in?

Keep in mind that a lot of animal rescues run without non profit status and they are doing good work, a 501(c)3 does not a good rescue make. It took me 6 years to get mine, as soon as I’d save the money some little waif would land on my doorstep needing vet care and I wasn’t going to let a dog die so I could get a piece of paper.

That being said, for those that did donate to me I always made sure that I was an open book, all of my financials were available for them to see, and most times I had them just donate to our vet or buy dog food and supplies. Just be smart and be aware.

Most of the robo calls you get now are from fundraising companies who are paid to get your money but they take up to 75% of whatever they take in.

My suggestion is that you send or take your money directly to a charity you are interested in.

The cities of Everett and Arlington have declared war on the homeless and the poor, down to making it a crime. Sadly most of the people in trouble are dealing with drug addictions or mental health issues, or worse yet both.

They suggest you don’t give those folks anything.

I suggest you do: I don’t advise giving them too much money if any at all, but trust me when I say this, you have much in your home right now that could save their lives, old blankets, an old tent, an air mattress, sleeping bags, shoes, caps, socks, mittens, thermos, canned food items all just gathering dust.

There are also the domestic violence shelters where most of the residents have had to leave with nothing more then the clothes on their backs. All of those dishes and clothes you complain about washing or were thinking of getting rid of could be put to excellent use to help them make a new start, even get a job. Hint… when you’re shopping look for 2 for 1 deals on toiletries, make up or accessories and take the extra one to a woman’s shelter

The best use of your donations is to donate locally: Don’t fall for the sad HSUS or ASPCA commercials, your money won’t got to help a single animal in this state. Go to your local rescue or shelter and ask them what is on their “wish list” or look it up on their website and take it to them. Surprisingly many items you already have at home are desperately needed by both and it’s a good chance to get a jump on your spring cleaning.

If you want to donate to the bigger charities then donate to the local offices where they are able to utilize the money for local people.

If you’d like to help, get your neighbors involved, start a work campaign take up donations of household items, toys, and gift cards.

Go to your local church and find a local family to sponsor.

Go to your local nursing home or senior centers and get a list of folks who need help and by help I mean something as simple as companionship, or help around their homes like a “honey do” list. Maybe even just inviting them to your home for dinner.

The biggest problem right now is theft, those same folks battling drugs or mental illness are on the prowl for whatever they can get their hands on and depending on how far they have fallen or how severe their mental illness is they can be deadly to you.

While you are lost in your heady dreams of Christmas morning and sales galore so are they. They are watching everything right now, you at the mall, your doorstep for packages, all the goodies you’ve locked in your trunk, the wallet in your purse or the cell phone in your hand.

Here is a list of things not to do:

1. Don’t have packages left on your doorstep, have them delivered to your office or held at the post office and go get them yourself
2. Don’t leave a store and go lock your packages in a trunk, or pull up get out of your car and then lock purse or valuables in the trunk, thieves watch from the comfort of their warm car for you to do just that,
3. Don’t keep your wallet in your purse or back pocket, take ID and money and put them in a front pocket, leave the wallets and purses at home.
4. Be aware of your surroundings, don’t just walk around with your face buried in your phone, or with earphones so loud that you can’t hear others speak
5. Don’t give out your credit card number to anyone who calls you, if it’s a charity you want to donate too, ask them for a call back number so you can verify their credentials, and verify that phone number, if it goes back to a fund raising company just send a check to your local chapter of that charity.
6. Do not ever respond to emails for donations, unless it is from a charity you know and trust, do not respond to the email, call them directly and donate that way or send them a check

If you are selling anything on line be careful of an old tried and true scam. Someone will respond and get your address to send you the payment (because they are out of the country or doing missionary work) and it will be a fake money order for 100’s or 1000’s of dollars and they will claim it was a mistake and you should go cash it and send them back the balance, you now owe your back 1000’s of dollars and the scammers just made it off of you for 20 minutes of their time.

The other common scam is pre-paid services, people come to your door claiming they are offering discounted services that you can buy now like home repair yard maintenance, etc… and they have your money and you’ve got a jungle of a yard with the same squeaky stairs.

I wanted to touch on something else too: Earlier I said you can get gift cards for folks, but there are services at check cashing stores and on line where people can sell those gift cards so be very careful of where those cards go.

The next scam also involves gift cards, someone in front of a store or online offers a gift card at a discount rate, you may even call the number on the back of that card to confirm the amount and think you’ve made a great deal only to get to the cash register and have an empty card, they sell it to you and then go online and make an order or find some other way to take the money off of the card and there you are.

Remember if it sounds too good to be true it usually is…

This season is about giving, it’s your hard earned money and you should be able to give it and know that it is helping, you can’t always guarantee it but you can walk away knowing you have done your homework and that you gave with an honest and open heart