A gift that keeps on taking
THE HOLIDAYS are a time of giving and celebration. Unfortunately, they are also a time when scam
artists are on the prowl for their next target. Here are
some common holiday scams to be aware of and
how you can avoid being taken.
Online gift scams. When a gift is popular,
scammers will advertise these hot items on rogue
websites and on social networks, even if they don’t
have them to sell. You could wind up spending big
bucks for an item, giving away your credit card
details and receiving nothing in return. It’s best to
deal with reputable retail websites when purchasing
gifts to avoid a holiday headache.
Phony holiday jobs. Scammers offer all
types of work-from-home or mystery-shopper jobs
after asking for money upfront or for your personal
information. Before you take any holiday job, verify
that the employer is legitimate. If a so-called
employer asks for money or for your personal information, reject the deal.
Fake vacation rentals. Scammers advertise a property they don’t own or show pictures of a
place they pretend to represent, then take your
money and disappear. The solution? Thoroughly
research the rental property—especially if it’s out of
the country. Take every possible step to ensure you’re
dealing with the true owner of the property. And
always pay by credit card, not wire transfer.
Phony promotions. Scammers litter
Facebook and Twitter with fake promotions and
contests aimed at gathering personal information. If
you see one of these scams, report it to Facebook or
Twitter immediately. ( You can find out how to report
abuse and policy violations in Facebook’s and
Twitter’s help centers.)
Counterfeit merchandise. This trend is
increasing online. Some scam artists go so far as to
create “discount” sites offering unreal deals on
designer goods. Beware of designer luxury items that
are priced way below their usual price, and be sure to
buy from a reputable retailer.
Fake-check scams. In these instances, buyers want what you’re selling online, so they offer you a
cashier’s check for more than your asking price, on the
condition that you return the difference. Weeks later,
your bank informs you that the cashier’s check was
phony, and you are now out money and your goods.
The best way to avoid this fraud is not to accept
cashier’s checks or return any difference in cash.
Scam text messages are another way to
lure you in by offering free goods or prizes. Don’t
click on any links in the text message, don’t reply and
don’t ever give out your credit card info, bank
account or Social Security number. Replying to a
spam text only verifies that your number is active,
which will result in more texts.
If you shop with coupons, beware of irresistible
offers, such as winning a free iPad. Scam artists frequently use this approach to steal identities. Also,
beware of coupon code offers that ask you to provide
passwords, credit card details or other financial data.
Holiday screen savers, ring tones and
e-cards. Bringing holiday cheer to your computer or
smartphone sounds like a great way to get into the
holiday spirit. However, holiday-themed screen savers, ring tones and e-cards can contain malicious
viruses. It’s better to create your own screen savers,
Here are some overall suggestions:
• Only deal with established
websites and retailers.
• Watch out for too-good-to-be-true offers (like free airline tickets and gift cards).
• Never agree to reveal
your personal information
just to participate in a
• Use a credit card
instead of a debit card to
avoid most types of financial fraud when shopping
• Never wire money
or give out your Social
Security number or passwords online.
• Download mobile
apps from official app stores
only, and read user reviews
before downloading them.
If you’re the victim of a
holiday scam, file a complaint
with the Federal Trade Commission,
with your state attorney
general’s office. C
I WAS recently taken to a
hospital emergency room by
ambulance. Late that night
I was transferred to a bed
in the cardiac unit of the
hospital, where I stayed for
less than 24 hours. I was in
the hospital about 29 hours
total. The hospital billed the
visit as two separate stays
instead of one admission.
Therefore, my insurance also
billed it as two separate
days. I have spoken to the
hospital and the insurance
company, and both say
there is nothing they can
do because that is how the
doctor billed it. This seems
like a trick by the hospital
and insurance company to
get more money out of me.
Do you have any advice?
Try to handle this informally ;rst by going to the hospital billing department in person and also by speaking with the doctor or the doctor’s billing of;ce in person, rather than by phone. If that doesn’t get you the result you want, the Consumer Protection Division of the Maryland attorney general’s of;ce has a Health Education and Advocacy Unit that assists consumers in resolving billing disputes with hospitals, doctors and insurance companies. C
AMY CAN TRELL
David Horowitz is a leading consumer advocate. Visit his blog at
back.com or email him at
© 2012 FIGH T BACK! INC. ALL RIGH TS RESERVED. AMANDA HORO WITZ MEDIA.
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