Consumer Watchdog: The 12 scams of Christmas
The festive season is prime time for rip-off merchants to strike.
Expand Rip-off merchants can ruin Christmas. Photo / ThinkstockOn the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me ...
Here's the Herald on Sunday's list of a dozen schemes that'll empty your stockings if you don't take care.
1: A courier bill
A "courier company" calls to say you were out when the driver came to deliver a package. A small credit card fee will secure re-delivery.
2: A smartphone
That old smartphone, laptop or computer you throw out or sell on Trade Me is a goldmine of personal security data. It remains even if you delete the files, contact lists and photos.
3: An invalid concert ticket
The same e-ticket is sold countless times, online or outside an event, and there's nothing to indicate it's a dud until event staff scan it.
Alternatively, tickets are sold online before being reported stolen. The original ticket-holder gets replacements and you get turned away on arrival.
4: A new home
Scammers advertise a reasonably priced rental online. They are overseas, but if you wire them a week's rent and bond, they'll send you the key.
5: A Facebook friend
A stranger befriends you on Facebook. By posting a photograph or link to your profile, they can also install spy-ware on your computer. It records everything you type, including passwords.
6: A romantic thief
Scammers spend months gaining the trust of their victims before needing money, which they want sent via Western Union transfer.
Despite high-profile coverage of Nigerian-style scams - in which people are asked, often repeatedly, for money to "release" vast wealth - ScamWatch had 57 reports this year, with some unfortunate people losing six-figure sums.
7: A new job
The job, processing bank transactions for an international company, might be advertised on a community noticeboard or in newspaper classifieds.
In March, a Waikato woman was lucky to escape a prison sentence after unknowingly becoming a money mule for an international crime ring.
8: 'Missing in the post'
Most listings on Trade Me and Sella are genuine. But paying for big-ticket items that never arrive is a common scam.
9: A maxed-out credit card
The restaurant bill arrives in a folder, you put your credit card in and it's taken away to be processed. It is standard practise in all eateries, but as soon as your card is out of sight, anyone could jot down the number, expiry date and security code.
10: A new body
ScamWatch is flooded with complaints about mail-order weight-loss products that don't show up or "free" trials that require payments.
11: A shonky donation
Scammers wear official-looking uniforms and present fake IDs.
12: A bach that doesn't exist
You find a bach and book it online through a legitimate website. You pay by credit card or Western Union transfer and never hear from the "owner" again.
LAPSE IN VIGILANCE LETS CONS CREEP IN
Natasha Stone, 28, is an intelligent woman. She wouldn't give her credit-card details to a courier company and she knows to buy concert tickets from official sources. She wouldn't use dating sites, either, but was surprised to hear she would need a special program to wipe an old hard drive properly.
Stone, an administrator from West Auckland, admitted she might also give someone "the benefit of the doubt" if they friended her on Facebook - and agreed it would give them access to detailed information about her. And she's already been burned in online trades, losing $150 on a phone that did not arrive.
"They gave us the courier number, but the courier company had never heard of it," she said. "We did a lot of chasing around but never heard from the person after that." Stone could be prone to credit-card theft, too.
She lets waiters take her card out of view and would even email her credit-card details as security on a holiday house.
Stone could have fallen for some of the scams - but we will give her credit for discovering a scam happening under the nose of her entire neighbourhood: "The dairy were adding $2 or $3 to your Eftpos transaction, because no one ever checks the amount on the screen," she said. "I hit them up about it."
By Celeste Gorrell Anstiss
Phishing scams, hijacking of TM accounts, keyloggers and all manner of other nasties. This is the place to report them and get help if you've been hit.
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