(WAFF) - Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall is offering information and tips to help consumers have safe and happy holidays by taking precautions against scams and other potential dangers.
"This is a time for celebrating precious traditions with family and friends, sharing goodwill with our neighbors and honoring a spirit of kindness and love," said Attorney General Marshall.
"That is my heartfelt wish for the people of Alabama. But we must be vigilant and guard against those who would take advantage of this special time by stealing and defrauding others. I hope these words of advice will help to protect consumers and that we all may have a joyous holiday."
Marshall says the holiday season is a popular time for fake charity scammers, who often use phishing emails, spoofed telephone numbers or make door-to-door visits. They may act as if they are working for an established charity or may even create a fake charity.
Be safe and directly contact the charity of your choice and donate to them instead. If you suspect a door-to-door solicitor isn't honest, contact your local law enforcement agency.
Click here for online data available to assist with verifying charities: Consumers may go to the Internal Revenue Service at to look up tax-exempt organizations and can also use the Better Business Bureau's website for more information.
Scammers may also pose as family members or friends who are away from home and in need of money. They might say they've lost their wallet or experienced an emergency to deceive you.
The scammers will instruct you to wire cash or provide them with a prepaid card number. Never send money to anyone if you cannot verify their identity. If you are unsure, check the whereabouts of the person reportedly needing assistance with other family members.
Additionally, ask the person calling or emailing to verify details that only family would know, such as the location of last family gathering or where they went to high school or college.
Alabamians should beware of websites that feature pop-up advertising promising a hard-to-find item or items at a too-good-to-be-true price—if an online offer seems too good to be true, then it probably is.
Shoppers should be extra vigilant this time of year for crimes of opportunity. It is always best to keep the following in mind:
- Park in a well-lit area.
- Do not leave your purse, presents, or other purchases in plain view in your vehicle.
- Do not leave your purse unattended in your shopping cart.
- If possible, shop with a friend or family member—there is safety in numbers.
- If meeting someone to purchase something bought online, meet in a heavily trafficked and well-lit area—consider the parking lot of your local police department or sheriff’s office.
Consider taking certain precautions to safeguard packages being delivered to their homes to prevent them from being stolen:
- Consider having packages sent to your workplace or a friend or neighbor if you won’t be home to receive them.
- Some delivery services will hold packages at their local site for pick-up, or companies may ship to a local store or other attended delivery site.
- Give specific instructions for packages to be left in a discreet area less likely to be noticed such as behind something or at a side entrance.
- If you will be home, request that a signature for receipt be required so that it is not left unattended.
Remember that gift cards can also be manipulated by thieves. Scammers sometimes rub off the security codes from gift cards while they are still on store shelves and wait until they think the gift card has been sold and activated.
They will then spend the money, leaving the recipient with no money left on the card. To avoid this scam, make sure the gift card you are buying is intact before you buy it. Compare it to other gift cards of the same variety.
Be sure to keep your gift card receipt.
To report suspected consumer fraud, Alabamians can call the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-392-5658.
You can also visit the Attorney General's website and click on "Consumer."
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