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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

MONEY MATTERS WITH SHEILA--AUTHOR TERRY AMBROSE ON IDENTITY THEFT AND SCAM ARTISTS

Terry Abrose is a skip tracer who writes mysteries and thrillers. His latest funny Hawaiian mystery, Kauai Temptations, received a 5-star review from venerated mystery author Carolyn Hart. To learn more about Terry and his books and find featured content with real scam tips, author interviews, and book reviews on his website. Scam artists love to zero in on clueless shoppers during the holiday season. Today Terry joins with a list of the seven most popular scams. Being aware of them will help you protect yourself.

I’m a former identity theft victim. My identity was stolen back in the days when people still ordered checks. We ordered checks from our bank, then went on vacation knowing our checks would be delivered well after we returned home. The checks were delivered early, a temporary employee at the Post Office stole our box of checks from our held mail, and my identity was toast.

That scenario is the trigger for my new McKenna Mystery, Kauai Temptations. That incident, combined with my own background as a skip tracer, led me to write all these years later about scams and cons—both in real life and in fiction.

With 7 days left until Christmas, there are still plenty of opportunities for the scammers, so let’s look at seven of those that have been making the rounds this holiday season.

1) Holiday e-cards are very popular this year. Did you know these cards can conceal viruses and malware? If you receive an email with an attachment or link to a card, be careful. If you have any question about who sent the card, delete it.

2) Giving the gift of plastic can be a great solution for those who are hard to buy for. Gift cards, however, can become worthless if a smart scammer gets the authorization code on the card. Once you activate the card, they start buying online. Your gift becomes worthless and whoever gave it to you is out the money.

3) Looking for love this holiday season? Be cautious when making new friends on social media. If someone becomes really friendly quickly and your name’s not Adam Levine or Scarlett Johansson, think twice about that friend.

4) It’s the season of giving—and scammers know it. Charities receive the bulk of their donations in the 90 days before January 1. That’s why scammers use fake charities to collect “donations.” Check out charities on the Better Business Bureau website at bbb.org.

5) Is your credit card debt piling up because you went overboard? The FBI estimates that 90% of the work-at-home opportunities are scams. If you’re thinking of working at home and have dreams of making that advertised $10k a month, rethink the dream. You’ll be lucky if you don’t get taken for that much.

6) We saw one of the new Hallmark Christmas movies the other night, Christmas with Tucker. The dog in the movie was so darned cute he almost made me want one of my own. If you find yourself thinking about a new pet, be careful when buying online. You could get a pooch with problems or nothing at all.

7) Santa scammers. Say what? In my book, this is about as low as it goes. This one  takes money from an unsuspecting parent and disappoints a child. Here’s how the scam works: Since the 1950s, legitimate businesses have handwritten letters from Santa to children. Very cool idea. Enterprising scammers, however, felt left out. They now have fake websites to collect personal information they might use to steal your identity.

I’ve got 7 days left until Christmas and a couple of scam posts to do on my website, so if you’ve got a good one—or even an experience with one of these—I’d love to hear it.

Kauai Temptations
Lush tropical setting…enchanting beaches…dark secrets
When Wilson McKenna’s bank tells him he’s written $4,000 in bad checks on an island he’s never been to, he’s one unhappy haole. Things get worse when he’s nearly arrested for impersonating himself, the woman who trashed his credit turns up dead, and he realizes he’s up to his ‘umi’umi in hot lava.

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8 comments:

Terry Ambrose said...

Thanks for having me as a guest, Lois!

Linda Thomas-Sundstrom said...

Waving to Terry. I just bought one of those SANTA packages... so I hope it was legit - it was through Amazon. LOL.... thanks for the tips. Happy holidays to you.
Linda

Andrea said...

Great post. My ex signed up for one of those work at home scams. Only he got was $1 and a letter from the Post Office saying to cease or else ;)

Terry Ambrose said...

Hi Linda, buying through Amazon is probably a pretty safe way to handle those Santa letters. If something happens, you'd have recourse not only through them but also through your credit card company. Good way to go! And what a nice present to give, very cool. Merry Christmas,
Terry

Terry Ambrose said...

Hi Andrea, hopefully he didn't give them much information. If this was recently and he did give them financial information, you might want to check your credit reports to make sure there's no activity. You can get those reports once a year for free, so it might add a bit of peace of mind.

The fact that he got money from them without giving them money leads me to believe it was a legitimate company that just takes advantage of what become essentially free labor.

Happy holidays! Thanks for stopping by!
Terry

Kathleen Kaska said...

Thanks, Terry. Great reminders this time of year.

Terry Ambrose said...

Thanks Kathleen. Isn't it funny how at this time of year the bad guys ramp up just as we're all letting down our guards?

J Mehl said...

Terry, this sounds like an upbeat book even though it deals with a serious topic--a nice way to get the subject into readers' heads without a hammer. Love it.
Judith Mehl
Author: http://www.judymehl.com