Avoiding Not-so-Jolly Holiday Scams

The holiday season is a time when family and friends come together to celebrate. The bad news is that this is also when thieves of all kinds are trying a variety of scams. To help you keep the sparkle in your holidays, the California Society of CPAs (CalCPA.org) offers this advice on scams to avoid so you can keep the season merry.

Don’t Trust Social Media Scrooges

Did that email or social media posting urging you to enter a contest to win the latest iPad or Xbox sound too good to be true? Unfortunately, it probably was. Contests or offers of free gift cards or other rewards are among the ploys scammers put to work to trick you into sharing personal confidential data or financial information.

Con artists also send bogus confirmation emails that appear to be from reputable retailers or delivery companies, but if you open them or click on the links they contain your system could be hit with destructive malware.

If you’re not expecting a package—or if the email message line contains any misspellings or other signs it’s not from a legitimate source—then send these messages straight to your spam or trash file without opening them.

Scrutinize Your Ecards

Ecards have become a popular way to express holiday greetings, but sadly scammers have gotten on the bandwagon. They send out mass mailings with cards containing malware that will disrupt or steal information from your system. If it’s not clear who sent the card, it’s best to trash it.

Watch for Pickpockets on the Prowl

Hiding among all the holiday shoppers crowding the stores is an army of criminals seeking to separate you from your money.

To avoid becoming a pickpocketing victim, stay away from dense crowds if possible and always be sure to keep your wallet in an inside pocket or money belt or in a bag that zips or snaps shut.

To protect your privacy if you are a victim, remove your Social Security card from your wallet, along with anything else that shows your Social Security number. Other things not to keep with you when you’re shopping include lists revealing your ATM PIN or passwords to important accounts. And remember not to leave your wallet, purse or holiday purchases unattended or they might disappear!

Prevent Package Pilfering

You could also become a victim if you leave packages inside your car in a quiet parking lot. To prevent criminals from breaking in and taking them, be sure to store them in your trunk before you park and try to leave your car in a busy area.

Packages left on your front porch are another temptation for crooks, which is why it’s a good idea to have expensive items sent to your office, to arrange for deliveries when someone can be home and to require a signature, if possible, or to have them sent to a friend or relative who can accept them in person.

Turn to Your Local CPA

No one wants to think about crime at this time of year, but a few simple actions can help you avoid becoming a victim. There are also many steps you can take throughout the year to protect your finances. Whenever you have questions about the best ways to keep your financial life in order, be sure to contact your local CPA. He or she can offer the advice you need to make smart financial decisions.

Copyright 2014 American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

The Money Management columns are a joint effort of the AICPA and the California Society of CPAs as part of the profession’s nationwide 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy program.