December is all about shopping and with shopping comes the possibility of getting scammed. That’s why I’m dedicating a series to protecting yourself this season. We’ve already talked about tips for shopping online and protecting your identity. This week, I’m going to talk about three actual criminal events or attempted fraudulent activity and how you can protect yourself from these types of events. 

Incident #1:

Thieves are posing as utility workers in the Omaha, Nebraska area in order to gain entrance to their victim’s homes.  Once inside, one “worker” keeps the homeowner occupied while the accomplice goes throughout the home stealing as much as they can in a relatively short period of time.  The homeowner is unaware of the theft until after the “workers” leave.  To protect yourself from this crime:

  • Before letting any stranger into your home, do the following:
    • Ask for identification and what company they are representing.
    • Take note of the type of vehicle the person is driving, any wording on the vehicle and the license plate number. 
    • If there is another person in the vehicle that does not come to your door, ask who they are and what they are doing or will be doing at your home.  Ask to see that person’s identification. 
    • Call the company they are representing and verify that the person(s) is supposed to be at your home. Do not use any phone number provided by the person at your door. Search on the internet for the phone number for the company. Shut your door and lock it before starting your internet search and making the phone call. 
  • Once you have verified the person or persons is authorized by the company to be doing some work at your home, do not leave either person alone in your home. Follow them wherever they go. Don’t allow them to go into any areas of your home where you are not present. 
  • If, at any time, you feel uncomfortable with the person or persons, ask them to leave. If they will not leave, call the police. 

Incident #2:

Scammers are using the economic stimulus payments and the possibility of Congress enacting additional pandemic aid to trick people out of their identity and/or bank information. They are sending scam texts to potential victims. According to the IRS, the message says, “You have received a direct deposit of $1,200 from COVID-19 TREAS FUND. Further action is required to accept this payment into your account.  Continue here to accept this payment…”  The text includes a link to a web address that looks like the Get My Payment website.  However, it is a fraudulent website that asks the person to enter their personal and financial information.  To protect yourself from this scam:

  • Remember that the IRS does not send unsolicited texts or emails. 
  • Do not click on the link.
  • Take a screenshot of the text message.
  • Send the screenshot to [email protected] along with the following information:
    • The date and time you received the message.
    • The phone number the text came from.
    • Your phone number.
  • Delete the message from your phone. 

Incident #3:

This week I received a call at my office on my business phone. The caller said my social security number has been used in a fraud and I need to speak with their representative immediately. She also said if I chose not to speak to their representative then I would be assuming responsibility for the fraud. Of course, I knew the call was fraudulent since my business does not have a social security number. This call is an example of scammers using fear and intimidation to get the victim to provide them with personal or financial information. The best way to protect yourself from fraudulent calls such as this is to simply hang up the phone without saying anything.

The holidays are a time for family, giving, and warm hearts. Don’t let a fraudster or scammer ruin your happy celebrations! Stay safe and, if you have questions, always feel free to reach out.

Judith Ackland has more than 26 years of experience in accountancy and financial planning, including seventeen years as a CFO of a diverse business. She started Crystal Financial in 2010 to help a wide array of individuals, families, and business owners better understand their finances and how good financial management could help them achieve their goals. Judith has an MA in Professional Accountancy from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln as well as a Certified Public Accountant Certificate and a Certified Financial Planner designation.

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