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'Be aware and vigilant' of holiday scams

Posted: December 9, 2010 5:29 p.m.
Updated: December 10, 2010 5:00 a.m.
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With the holiday shopping season in full swing, Tyrrell Coleman, the Camden Police Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) officer, said there’s one thing people need to remember as they log onto the Internet or head out to stores during the next few weeks:

“Always be aware,” he said. “And if something is too good to be true, then it probably is.”

Coleman said most scam artists don’t wait until the holiday season to unveil new rip-offs, as scams are often generated and distributed year-round.

But with many people feeling charitable during the weeks leading up to Christmas, Coleman said local police departments usually receive many more complaints of scams during the holiday season.

Among the most popular scams that people often fall victim to are e-card e-mail scams, charity scams and “online ransoms.”

Online ransoms, Coleman said, is when all of your personal information is stolen after you click on a link in e-mails from people or accounts with which you are unfamiliar.

“We’ve even got some of these scams on our Facebook page. Don’t believe scams that say you’ve inherited money from a long-lost relative or that you’ve won some type of lottery,” he said. “It goes with the saying that ‘curiosity killed the cat.’ All it takes is one click on a link and they’ve got all of your information. If it’s too good to be true, then it probably is.”

Among those who fall victim to scams more than others, Coleman said, are elderly people who send money to “charities.”

“We just want everyone to be careful. A lot of people have sad stories nowadays, especially when you’re in a recession. So you’re going to find scams everywhere,” he said. “If someone approaches you online and asks you to donate money to their charity, make sure that charity is real. You can verify it with the Better Business Bureau or look it up in the phone book.”

But being vigilant doesn’t stop with watching out for scams, Coleman said.

Each year, the number of car break-ins spike during the holiday season as most residents tend to leave valuables in eyesight of potential burglars.

“And out of all of the cases that we receive, I’d say that about 90 percent of them are preventable,” Coleman said, adding that simply placing items in your trunk may be enough to make potential thieves pass over your car. “It’s important that people get out of this mindset that ‘This can’t happen to me.’ And not just during the holiday season, but throughout the year … because it can happen to you. We just want everyone to be aware and vigilant.”

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