Christmas is a wonderful time of year. It is a time to be with family and friends, and to celebrate life. In Protestant Christianity, it is also a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, and his sacrifice of coming to earth. Regardless of your religious convictions, we at Develop CENTS sincerely hope all of our clients, friends, families, and you, our readers, have a wonderful Christmas holiday season.
Unfortunately, Christmas is also a common time for people to fall victim to numerous scams (including ones that take place over the internet). In addition to wishing you a happy holiday season (and a happy New Year), I want to take a moment to briefly talk about some common internet scams, and how you can be on your guard (and remain secure) this Christmas season.
The Classic Nigerian Email Scam
This is by far one of the most popular scams around, and it isn’t new. This particular scam has floated around the internet for several years, even since 2002 (and quite probably before that). According to Snopes.com, the scam first originated in the 1930’s in the form of letters before email even existed!
This scam is simple: You get an email from someone who claims to have suddenly gained access to a fortune (possibly one of their rich relatives died, or an acquaintance left them with huge amount of money in their will). Unfortunately, according to the email, the money is not accessible (perhaps it is in some overseas bank account). So the sender is asking for your help. You will help funnel the money through your own bank account. All you have to do is provide your bank account details to the sender.
If you’ve used the internet for any length of time, chances are good that you’ve seen a variation of this scam. But just in case you haven’t:
You should never email your passwords, bank account information, or other similar personal information to strangers on the internet. Ignore the email, mark it as spam, and then consider deleting it – because it is a scam.
A Friend or Relative has an Emergency
You get an email from someone you trust that states the person is traveling internationally, has an emergency (perhaps they’ve been robbed), and needs cash immediately. You are asked to immediately wire the money to that person. Chances are likely that this is also a scam. It is not uncommon for email accounts to get hacked (perhaps the victim clicked on a malicious link that tricked them into entering their password to their email address). Attackers and scammers prey on “emergencies” and the sense of urgency.
Let’s briefly think about this scenario: If the person was travelling internationally, would they not first contact their immediate family for help? If that resource was unavailable, what about their bank? And finally, what about their country’s embassy?
It pays to do your research. If you receive any email from anyone asking for money, you should first verify the need by talking to the person and verifying all of the facts. Email is insecure, and you typically don’t have a way to know 100% that the person behind a particular email address is actually that person.
A Nonprofit Organization Needs Your Help this Holiday Season
Ok, let’s face it: What nonprofit organization does NOT solicit end-of-the-year donations? Thousands of very legitimate nonprofits need to raise money every year, and they know that the Christmas season is a time of generosity (and/or a time for individuals and organizations to make donations for tax reasons). Regardless of the reason, nonprofits know that individuals and companies give a lot of money during the holiday season. This fact is attractive to scammers. Where there is (easy) money, there are scammers – so watch out!
You may receive solicitations in the mail or via email from nonprofits that you’ve never heard of. If that’s the case, then do your research and due diligence before donating money. Verify that they are in fact a legitimate nonprofit organization. One website that provides helpful tools for this type of research is guidestar.org.
In this holiday season, I hope that you have a safe, secure, and very Merry Christmas!