The following editorial first ran in the Ketchikan Daily News on Dec. 2:
The biggest shopping season of the year is also a prime time for scams.
Scammers will be out in force, trying to bilk money out of the confused and careless.
This happens via email, websites and telephone calls. The key is to never give out personal and financial information unless you initiated a business transaction. If someone calls you, call the business or organization the caller represents and check out that the call is legitimate. Look up the number yourself; don’t use a number provided by the caller.
Keep in mind that financial institutions that you do business with already have all of the information they need; they acquired that when you signed up for an account or another type of business.
It is wisest to use your debit or credit card on only secured websites and with businesses with which you are familiar.
The most reasonable way to avoid Internet scams is to buy local. Even if local stores need to order an item for you, they are ordering through their tried and true suppliers. The possibility of fraud diminishes dramatically under this scenario for you. It also serves to support the local businesses, who can use the extra support in this slower-than-in-the-past economy. They offer more than one might imagine, but you have to go look. Many also offer gift cards for goods and services. Nothing could be nicer than a fuel gift card in December; or a grocery store gift card for a family with children. Cards are available for everything from art to zebras (stuffed at one of the toy stores).
Be wary of any offers that come through the Internet that offer big winnings of any sort, especially if you are told you have to send money in order to get money.
Of course, there are legitimate promotions offered by businesses this time of year. Watch for sales and promotions, but verify that they are legitimate.
If you really do win something during the holiday season, the business offering the prize will appreciate your caution, too. Legitimate businesses don’t want to be, or to see, anyone taken advantage of.
Be careful out there this shopping season.