Avoid the cons

Don’t let scammers and thieves take advantage of you during the holidays

We’re in the midst of the holidays. It’s the season of giving—when people tend to be cheerful, a little nicer and more generous. However, it’s also the time of year when a criminal element surfaces to take advantage of others.

Just last week, for example, there were reports of people going door to door in Chico asking for donations for the Second Chance program. The thing is, that Southern California-based nonprofit doesn’t go knocking on doors. Scammers had hijacked the organization’s name and were working their grift in our fair city for at least the second time in recent memory. There also have been reports of stolen packages from front porches, and, soon enough, there will be reports of break-ins.

CN&R’s on the lookout for this year’s schemes and we have compiled some tips to help readers fend them off. Here’s some advice from us and the Better Business Bureau:

• When buying gifts online, be wary of look-alike websites—that is, URLs that look similar to those of well-known outlets but that are really phony ones out to get credit card numbers.

• Don’t fall for phone calls from “friends” or “relatives” claiming to have been in an accident, put in jail or stranded in another country while traveling. Scammers troll obituaries for vital info, such as the names of the deceased’s loved ones. Typically, they target the surviving spouse, mainly elderly folks, by pretending to be a relative who’s in a desperate situation that requires a transfer of funds.

• Identity thieves use the Web to target victims, so watch out for things like fake shipping notifications. Do not click on links or open attachments from unknown sources, and never give out personal info.

Meanwhile, the Chico Police Department this week is warning residents about the threat of theft during the holidays. Here’s the agency’s advice:

• Keep gifts and other pricy items hidden from view—both in your house (close your drapes) and car while you’re out shopping.

• Do not leave small valuables behind when you go out of town.

• Temporarily stop your newspaper and mail delivery or ask a neighbor to pick them up each day. Put your house lights on a timer.

• Keep news that you’re out of town on the downlow, especially when it comes to social media.

Take these precautions and enjoy the season.