Attorney General John O’Connor is urging Oklahomans to use caution when making purchases and donations this holiday season to avoid scams and fraud.
“As we enter another exciting holiday season, I want to make sure Oklahomans are prepared with the latest consumer protection tips to help ensure safe, joyful festivities and shopping,” said General O’Connor. “Scam artists view the holiday season as an opportune time to take advantage of consumers, which is why it is more important than ever to take precautions to protect yourself and your money. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it is.”
The FBI’s 2021 Internet Crime Report found losses due to cybercrime exceeded $6.9 billion in the United States last year. The report noted 4,156 Oklahomans made complaints to the FBI and lost more than $50 million. Read the FBI’s report here.
According to AARP, 78% of Oklahomans have been targeted by or experienced at least one form of fraud in the past.
Attorney General O’Connor’s Consumer Protection Unit is offering the following tips to protect Oklahomans and their families this holiday season:
- Buy gift cards for gifts, not for payments. If someone contacts you and demands that you pay them with a gift card, it is likely a scam. Report gift card scams directly with the card issuer and then report it to the FTC.
- Research charities before you donate. Make sure your donation goes where you want it to go, not into the hands of a scammer. If someone asks you to give to a charity, don’t let them rush you into making a donation. Instead, research the charity to make sure your donation counts. Tell the solicitor you will do your research and call them back. If they try to pressure you or will not give you a call back number, it is probably a scam.
- Don’t click any suspicious links or attachments in emails, on websites, or on social media. “Phishing” scams and similar crimes get you to click on links and give up personal information like your name, password, and bank account number. In some cases, you may unknowingly download malware to your device.
- Check each website’s URL to make sure it’s legitimate and secure. A site you’re buying from should have “https” in the web address. If it doesn’t, don’t enter your information on that site.
- Be careful how you pay. If possible, pay with a credit card. Credit cards give extra protection for most online purchases and many cards offer benefits like protection for returns and purchases. If unauthorized charges pop up on your statement, call your credit card company and dispute those charges. If you are not familiar with the individual or business, do not use P2P apps like Cash App, Zelle, and Venmo to make purchases.P2P apps do not have the same consumer protections as a credit card.
- Monitor the shipping process. Always get tracking numbers for items you buy online, so you can make sure they have been shipped and can follow the delivery process. Packages that are stacked up outside your door can make you a target for porch poachers. If you plan to be out of town but expect deliveries, consider having your mail held at the post office until you get back or ask a neighbor to collect them for you. Be cautious if you receive an unsolicited text message with a strange web link that indicates a package can’t be delivered. If you never signed up for a tracking request for a specific package, don’t click the link! This is likely a scam.
- Spot and avoid government impersonators. This type of scam often starts with a call, email, or text from someone who says they’re with the IRS, Social Security Administration, or Medicare – but sometimes they give a fake agency name, like the non-existent National Sweepstakes Bureau. They will also give you some reason why you need to send money or give them your personal information immediately. If you get a call like this, hang up the phone. Government agencies won’t call, email, or text you and ask for money or personal information. Only a scammer will do that. If you think a call or message could be real, call the government agency directly at a number you know is correct.
- Learn how to recognize mail scams and mail fraud texts. These can come in the form of prize offers, threatened punishments, or even a text message. Often, the scam letter has your name and looks like it’s written just for you. The letter says you must pay a fee or buy something to guarantee your good luck. It tells you to fill out a form and mail in a payment. The letter is a form letter, not a personal message, and it’s a trick. Don’t send money or information to someone who promises big rewards. If you really win something, you will get it without paying.