We continue our partnership with Stop Fraud Colorado and Colorado Consumer Protection Month. This week we move to holiday survival tips and scams that happen during the holiday season. Last week's article can be found here.
Nobody wants to spend the holidays alone. Romance scams affect thousands of people every year, but many victims do not believe they are victims and continue sending money to someone they have never met. The average loss per person is about $9,000-$10,000 and some have lost as much as $500,000. People have mortgaged homes, sold vehicles, pawned family heirlooms, and taken out loans to send money. These romance scam artists will play on your tender heart and holiday loneliness and use it to their advantage.
Follow a few simple steps to help reduce your risk of being a victim of a romance scam this holiday season:
- Do not trust someone you meet online just because you meet on a faith based or special interest website. Scammers will fake their faith to win your trust.
- Be suspicious if a new love interest suggests leaving the website and chatting by email or instant messages.
- Question "love at first sight" proclamations.
- Be cautious if a new love interest claims to be a US citizen living or working in another country.
- Never wire money to someone who you have not met, even if he or she claims to be the love of your life.
- Be wary of hard luck stories that can be remedied by you sending money.
- Do not forget that you do not know the person you are talking with online. That picture he or she sent could be a fake.
Millions of people will be traveling during the holidays. That means thieves and "porch pirates" are just waiting for that opportune moment when you and your family will be out of the house so they can have free access to your home and belongings. The last thing anyone needs is for their home to be burglarized or their holiday gifts stolen while they are away visiting family or friends.
Be smart before you leave and do these key steps to protect your home and investments:
- Set timers on interior lights. This will go a long way to deter criminals and make it appear someone is home.
- Double check that all doors and windows into and out of your home are closed and locked before you leave. Do not make it easy for a thief to enter your home.
- Secure your valuables in a safe in your home before you leave. This includes extra cash, jewelry and other valuable items you need to protect.
- If you have ordered gifts online and expect delivery while you are gone, talk to a neighbor about picking up that gift from your porch or have it delivered to a neighbor's address. Porch Pirates are out to do a quick "grab and go" with your holiday gifts that are left unattended on your porch or front steps.
- Install motion sensor lights outdoors.
- Make plans to either stop your newspapers and mail or arrange for a neighbor to pick them up for you.
- Get tracking information on packages that you expect delivery on so you know the date it is supposed to be delivered. When possible, put a notation of, "Someone must be home to accept delivery," in the delivery instructions for the item to avoid having it stolen by a porch pirate.
The article was written with material from the Colorado Attorney General's Stop Fraud Colorado program. You can learn more about Colorado Consumer Protection Month at https://www.stopfraudcolorado.gov/ccpm