INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Attorney General’s office issued a warning Tuesday about scammers trying to steal Christmas.
Todd Rokita’s office is seeing an uptick in holiday-related scams, including email phishing scams in which the message claims to be from a store or shipping company.
The email might say your package has been delayed, or that there’s a problem with your order.
"It takes you to a fake website where it asks you to cover shipping charges, so it basically takes your money at that point or they ask for more personal information, so it's basically a phishing scam and they can do a lot of damage,” said Rokita. “Or, you click on the link and malware can be installed in your computer. As you know malware is the gateway to ransomware. So very devious scams that we're finding here."
During the holidays, many people are distracted, rushed, unsuspecting, and in a giving mood, which can make Hoosiers even more vulnerable to scams.
"This is a trend we are seeing across the country, so we want to make sure Hoosiers are aware,” Rokita said.
You should always go directly to your account or call a known customer service number, rather than clicking through an email.
The Indiana Attorney General says you should do your research before buying or donating money, and closely read emails advertising holidays to make sure they’re from the companies they claim to represent rather than fraudsters.
“Another thing to look for is up at the top, the URL, try to make sure it says https, the s stands for secure site or make sure it has that lock symbol on it,” Rokita said. “That can give you an additional layer of security.”
Rokita encourages consumers to file complaints at Indianaconsumer.com
The Attorney General’s office offered the following tips to protect yourself:
- When shopping online, stick to secure websites that have “https” in the address (or a lock icon) rather than just an unsecured “http” site.
- Pay by credit card when online shopping. Always review your monthly statements for charges you don’t recognize. You can reverse charges or dispute a charge with your credit card company if necessary. It is more difficult to dispute charges on your debit card or obtain cash back.
- If you are purchasing gift cards, make sure you know the expiration date, as well as the terms that apply to the card. Keep receipts associated with gift cards in case they do not get properly activated to the amount you paid.
- Also on the subject of gift cards: Remember that any solicitor who contacts you by phone or email and asks you to pay with a gift card is no doubt a scammer. Do not cooperate with anyone making such a pitch.
- When shopping at physical store locations, conceal your purchases in the trunk of your vehicle or under the seat rather than leaving them in plain sight through windows. Also keep a close watch on purses and wallets when walking through shopping areas.
- Stave off “porch pirates” by making sure home exteriors stay well-lit. Follow a plan for the arrival of home deliveries, such as arranging for trusted neighbors to receive deliveries when you’re gone. Homeowners also may consider such options as purchasing lockable drop-off boxes or security systems with cameras.
- If a deal seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Take your time to investigate and be skeptical of such deals. Ask questions. Be sure to read the fine print to make sure you are purchasing exactly what you want on the terms you expect.
- Closely read emails advertising holiday deals to make sure they come from the companies they claim to represent rather than imposters and fraudsters. Consider navigating to a company’s official website through a trusted search engine rather than clicking on a link in an email.
- To protect your personal information, refrain from making online purchases while using public Wi-Fi.
- Never make hurried decisions. Scam artists want to pressure you into making a quick commitment to buy from them. Slow down and check out details for yourself.
- Research charities before donating — and follow the same online payment and security rules you would follow with online shopping. You can look up charities’ reports and ratings on these websites: Give.org; GuideStar.org; CharityWatch.org; and CharityNavigator.org.