Sunday, October 20, 2013

The holidays bring joy, cheer, and scams

With $5 million and their lives on the
line, can a criminologist and a con
artist learn to trust each other...
or themselves.

With the holidays fast approaching, it’s time to start thinking about decorating, who to invite to parties, and what gifts to give. It may also be a time when we open our wallets to help others. Charitable donation requests will appear in mailboxes, email accounts, and will even be seen outside of malls and grocery stores. Studies show that half of charity donations are made between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. What many people don’t realize is that, depending upon which charity you give to, those charitable contributions may not make it to the intended recipient.
I’m not referring to charities who have high administrative costs because that’s an entirely different problem. I’m referring to those who knowingly defraud consumers with fake websites or email scams. These charities show up not only during the holiday season, but also immediately after any natural or man-made disaster. For instance, within hours of the Boston Marathon explosion, fake charity websites were set up to collect donations for the victims. 
The fake sites are set up for the same reasons as any other fraudulent website. They collect financial information to sell to other organizations when you donate via credit card or debit card. They pocket your donations rather than passing them along. They use your collected information or leverage it to commit identity theft.

McKenna's identity is stolen and the girl
who stole his credit has turn up dead.
Now, he's up to his 'umi'umi in hot lava.
Identity theft is a huge business, somewhere in the over $15 billion range—and that range goes way up by some estimates. That particular crime is how I decided to start my new McKenna Mystery, with the protagonist’s checks having been stolen. There are, however, plenty of other ways for the scammers to get your information, including those fake websites and email scams mentioned above. So, if you want to keep your holidays merry and bright, be sure to start watching out now for anything that looks suspicious and follow these three little rules:
  • Check out businesses and charities with the Better Business Bureau at
  • Don’t be fooled by good artwork. The scammers have software to exactly duplicate a legitimate site.
  • Never succumb to pressure or that unbelievable deal. Pressure is the con man’s friend and that unbelievable deal probably is just that. Unbelievable. 
For more information, visit for more scam tips, author interviews, and information about Terry's books.


Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Great post and reminder, Terry. That's why I stick to giving to my church, I know exactly where the money is going. We have a food pantry, give money to those in need, plus much, much more. It never goes to line anyone's pockets.

Terry Ambrose said...

That's a great way to go Marilyn. Good choice!

Holli Castillo said...

My mom wants to give to pit bulls and parolees, that group from the t.v. show. I wish she would make me her favorite charity.