Avoiding Online Scams

Unlike postal mail, emails from charities are usually a result of you providing your contact information directly to that charity. You could have done this very intentionally, like signing up for an e-newsletter or action alerts from an organization you follow. If you made a donation to an organization online, signed an online petition, or responded to a survey -- perhaps through social media -- you also provided your email information. Doing so is implied, if not specific, permission for that organization to contact you via email again until or unless you tell them not to by opting out.

Email is a normal channel now for nonprofits to ask you for continued support, whether by making a contribution or doing something else to help the cause. They can reach you with very timely messages and connect you with relevant information on their website. As such, email messages you receive from a charity you have supported in the past are likely legitimate. If you have any doubt it’s always best to go directly to their website - every charity rated by Charity Navigator includes a link to the charity’s legitimate website - rather than clicking the links in the email.

Be a skeptic of email solicitations from charities you have not heard of before or haven’t in some way supported or contacted. Despite how official an email may seem it could be a scam. Do not follow any links within the message. If you are interested in the organization and want to learn more about them, here again the best starting point is to check to see if they are rated by Charity Navigator and then to contact the organization directly to learn more.  

Social networking tools like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and blogs can deliver heart-wrenching images and information about a disaster to our computers and phones. These often include pleas to donate.

While these applications can be a powerful tool to inspire your desire to help, you should not blindly give via these vehicles.

You must take the time to investigate the groups behind such pleas for help to ensure that it comes from a legitimate nonprofit.

It’s not typical for legitimate emails from organizations to include attachments. If there is something they want you to see, they are going to direct you to information or photos on their website. Do not open any attachments to these emails even if they claim to contain pictures of a particular tragedy. These attachments are probably viruses. Delete!

Anyone alleging to be in this position is most likely part of a scam. People affected by a disaster or afflicted by a disease are in no position to contact you directly for assistance.

Understand as much as possible about how the auction works, what your obligations are as a buyer, and what the seller’s obligations are before you bid.

Find out what actions the website/company takes if a problem occurs and consider insuring the transaction and shipment.

Learn as much as possible about the seller, especially if the only information you have is an e-mail address. If it is a business, check the Better Business Bureau where the seller/business is located.

Examine the feedback on the seller.

Determine what method of payment the seller is asking from the buyer and where he/she is asking to send payment.

If possible, purchase items online using your credit card, because you can often dispute the charges if something goes wrong.

Be cautious when dealing with sellers outside the United States. If a problem occurs with the auction transaction, it could be much more difficult to rectify.

Ask the seller about when delivery can be expected and whether the merchandise is covered by a warranty or can be exchanged if there is a problem.

Make sure there are no unexpected costs, including whether shipping and handling is included in the auction price.

There should be no reason to give out your social security number or driver’s license number to the seller.

If someone calls or sends a message claiming to be a family member or a friend desperate for money:

Resist the urge to act immediately, no matter how dramatic the story is.

Verify the person’s identity by asking questions that a stranger couldn’t possibly answer.

Call a phone number for your family member or friend that you know to be genuine.

Check the story out with someone else in your family or circle of friends, even if you’ve been told to keep it a secret.

Don’t wire money — or send a check or money order by overnight delivery or courier.

Report possible fraud at or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP.

Avoiding Telephone Scams

Scammers often pretend to be someone you trust, like a government official, a family member, a charity, or a company you do business with. Don’t send money or give out personal information in response to an unexpected request — whether it comes as a text, a phone call, or an email.

Type a company or product name into your favorite search engine with words like “review,” “complaint” or “scam.” Or search for a phrase that describes your situation, like “IRS call.” You can even search for phone numbers to see if other people have reported them as scams.

Technology makes it easy for scammers to fake caller ID information, so the name and number you see aren’t always real. If someone calls asking for money or personal information, hang up. If you think the caller might be telling the truth, call back to a number you know is genuine.

If you answer the phone and hear a recorded sales pitch, hang up and report it to the FTC. These calls are illegal, and often the products are bogus. Don’t press 1 to speak to a person or to be taken off the list. That could lead to more calls.

Do slow down and ask questions of telemarketers. Legitimate businesses and charities will answer questions and give you time to consider a purchase or donation. Scam callers will pressure you to commit right away.

Don’t give personal or financial data, such as your Social Security number or credit card account number, to callers you don’t know. If they say they have the information and just need you to confirm it, that’s a trick.

General Crime Prevention

Thinking that something bad can only happen to someone else and doing nothing to prepare yourself for dangers in society can make you a perfect victim for criminals. Know your surroundings, be familiar with emergency contact numbers, and don't be afraid of asking questions that may preserve the safety of you and your family by contacting the proper authorities.

Install durable locks on all doors and windows within your home, don't leave spare keys to your house easily accessible, invest in peepholes for your doors if none are installed, and if you have the funding security systems are excellent in safeguarding your home.

Avoid areas that are dark or have several obstacles that a perpetrator could hide behind, exercise in groups (strength in numbers), and if possible carry a phone in the case of an emergency.

Avoid drinking large amounts of alcohol at social gatherings or social halls. Alcohol drastically impairs your judgment and can put you at great risk. If you have access to self-defense training classes it is highly suggested you enroll to protect yourself from being a victim.

Always keep your doors locked and have your windows rolled up, never leave any possessions in plain view such as in the back seat or floor board, and though car alarms can be expensive they have proven to deter criminals from tampering with vehicles.

Secure your PIN number and be discreet when entering your number in public, shred all documents both paper and digital that have pertinent personal information on it, and destroy digital data before selling or trading a computer system or a hard drive. It is wise to assure the data on the hard drive is completely destroyed before getting rid of your computer.

Avoiding Retail Theft

Employee Theft - #1 source of all shrinkage, shoplifting, administrative errors, fraud

Employee theft is a crime of trust. The National Retail Security Survey has indicated that this crime causes $15 billion in losses annually. As such BE CAREFUL WHO YOU TRUST! When someone is responsible for money: Run background checks in Magistrate Court of every county person has lived and worked in; check the person’s references; look for warning signs of people in a position of trust (gambling problems, substance abuse problems, etc.); have a system of checks and balances. Don’t allow just one person to be solely responsible for all the finances; don’t turn your head. If you are the victim of employee theft, PROSECUTE. Not doing so can only encourage the person to go elsewhere and perform the same act.

Causes retailers $10 billion in losses annually. This is primarily a crime of opportunity. As such, most criminals are creatures of opportunity. This can mostly be averted by becoming familiar with the Crime Equation. Crime Equation: Motivated Offender + Suitable Target = Crime. The common denominator of the equation is opportunity. Once opportunity is removed, crime equation is broken, thus averting crime itself.

Causes retailers a loss of $10 billion annually. Fraud includes the following: Vendor Fraud, Return Fraud, and Check Fraud. Concerning this type of crime, it has often been said that the best offense is a good defense. In this respect, a good defense is knowledge.

Require receipt for cash returns; Only refund same form of currency used for the purchase; Develop policy for length of time you will accept returns; Place policy in plain view; Be consistent in enforcing policy; Require identification when accepting returns.

When accepting a check, make sure name, address, and phone number are printed on the check; Watch the check writer sign the check; Compare signatures to photo id of check writer; Use a check guarantee service; When possible, accept credit card payments

Buckhannon Public
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