7 scams of Christmas, and how to avoid them

(WSVN) - South Floridians can be victims of crime all year round, but thieves are always looking for targets during the holidays. With some expert advice from the FBI, we present to you the “7 Scams of Christmas.”

1. Romantic rip-off

For crooks, the holiday season can be the perfect time to strike at the heart and wallet of someone looking for a love connection.

Jason Manar, FBI Supervisory Special Agent: “We’ve seen in South Florida, romance schemes going up tremendously in the last few months.”

Authorities say scammers create fake profiles on dating or social media sites and target people they hope to con out of money. Red flags include: someone instantly saying they love you, or claims they are traveling or working overseas and need money for medical emergencies or travel expenses.

2. Bogus charities

Criminals may also play off people’s good nature this time of year. They pretend to ask for money for the victims of natural disasters – or charitable causes… but it’s really for themselves. Experts say ask for a charity’s information in writing and give to organizations you know and trust.

You can look them up on Florida’s “check-a-charity” search tool.

3. Impostor calls

Impostor scams involve people who are not who they say they are.

This former soldier said he was called and told he was awarded a government grant – but would need to pay 200 dollars first.
Eric Sprague: Dec. 2015: “I said, ‘look, come on – the money that you want from me, is that going for terrorism?’ Click… and then two minutes later I got this.”

Scammer voice mail: “I’m gonna blow a bomb on your house.”

The threat was nonsense, of course.

Just like threats in the IRS impostor scam… Where a crook pretends to work for the IRS.

He insists you owe back taxes and must pay immediately — by wire transfer, gift card, or prepaid debit card — or face deportation or arrest.

Scammer voice mail: “Hi, this is officer John White from the IRS department.”

The massive scam has cost victims 50 million dollars nationwide!

The message? Just hang up.

4. Phishing e-mails

Phishing is an attempt to trick you into handing over your personal information.

E-mails or texts may appear legit… like they’re from a retailer – or your bank.

Jason Manar, FBI Supervisory Special Agent: “It looks like the official real deal.”

But do not click on the links to confirm or verify anything.

Just hit delete.

5. Virus warnings

FBI Special Agent Jason Manar: “Microsoft is not going to call you to tell you you have a virus on your system.”

Nancy Daly, 2014: “They said to me that they were the technical division of Windows and that my computer had been compromised.”

Technical support scams involve bogus claims your computer is infected with a virus or malware.

Scammers want to scare you into paying for unnecessary fixes … or worse, lock you out of your own computer if you give them remote access.

6. Work-at-home ads

It may be a help wanted ad for seasonal holiday employment… but this scam is out there year-round.

One red flag — a supposed employer requiring you to pay – before being paid.

FBI Special Agent Jason Manar: “There’s some kind of educational fee that you must provide, there’s some kind of online classes you have to go to.”

7. Fake checks

Believe it or not, crooks still cash in with this old scam.

If you didn’t enter a lottery or sweepstakes — you didn’t win.

For more information on scams – including bonus tips on how to avoid fake smart phone apps:

FAKE SMARTPHONE APPS:
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/theres-app-it-might-be-fake

CHECK-A-CHARITY:
https://csapp.800helpfla.com/CSPublicApp/CheckACharity/CheckACharity.aspx

IRS IMPOSTOR SCAM:
https://www.treasury.gov/Tigta/

FBI INTERNET CRIME COMPLAINT CENTER:
https://www.ic3.gov

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