Hank Phillippi Ryan: You know Terry Ambrose from his fabulous column at Crime Fiction Examiner. But our Terry is also a pro (as a former skip tracer and deadbeat chaser) when it comes to scoping out scams and rip-offs! And today, he's got some savvy tips for those who think Valentine's Day is simply about chocolate. (Well, it IS about chocolate. And, possibly, jewelry. But there may be some pitfalls along the way--wait til you hear these!)
A Valentine's Day Warning!
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and that means shopping.
It also means decisions—how much to spend, what to buy, and where to make that purchase. Should I go online or into a store? Maybe I should go back to my trash folder and dig out that email with all the fabulous deals?
Putting a damper on the day is not my intent, but helping you to avoid a possible scam is. This blog is dedicated to the fine art of crime fiction and some of these scams rank right up there in ingenuity. So, here are three popular scams and two tips to help keep you safe as the season of love ramps up.
Gift card scam
Is your special someone far away? Is a gift card the best option? Maybe you see a special deal for a gift card that would let you leverage your dollars? The safest way to make this purchase is directly from the merchant or authorized retail merchant. In addition, ask for a card from behind the counter, not one that has been left out front that might have been tampered with.
The biggest scam of 2012
If you love auctions and see that “perfect” item for him or her, bear in mind that some scammers will run classified ads or auctions for products they don’t have. This “triangulation scheme” was one of the biggest scams in 2012 and involves three victims. Victim #1 is the person whose credit card was stolen. Fortunately, that person won’t lose much if they report their card as stolen in a timely manner. Victim #2 is the merchant, who will may lose the merchandise he sold. And then there’s Victim #3, in this case, truly the biggest loser. This is the person who buys from the scammer. #3 will definitely lose the merchandise they bought—if they ever even receive it. They’ll also become responsible for the cost of that item to the merchant. And the kicker is that Victim #3 might just get a visit from the police for receiving stolen goods.
The trickiest scam to detect
Have you ever mistyped a website address? It happens all the time. In fact, it happens so often that scammers set up fake websites that mimic the real ones. Sometimes that site will even be advertised. When scammers do this for a well-known brand such as Swarovski crystal and profess to provide products at discount prices, be especially aware that you may have found a scam.
Two tips for safe online shopping
Protecting yourself from online fraud doesn’t need to be complex or painful. Here are two easy ways to protect yourself if you decide to buy online. First, never give out credit card numbers, bank account numbers, or other financial information directly to a seller you don’t know. Second, always use a legitimate payment service to protect your purchases.
Just following those tips will help keep you safe and avoid turning your Valentine’s Day from a dream into a nightmare with no end in sight.
So, what’s on your agenda for Valentine’s Day? Are you on the hunt for a perfect gift? Did you find these tips helpful? And do you have a tip of your own you’d like to pass along?
Terry Ambrose (terryambrose.com) is a mystery author who also reports on real-life scams and cons on Examiner.com.
His most recent release is LICENSE TO LIE.
Hank Phillippi Ryan, Anthony, Agatha and Macavity award-winning author, called LICENSE TO LIE a “smart and twisty tale of high finance and double dealing” and said, “This unlikely and irresistible crime-fighting duo will charm you--and keep you happily turning the pages.”