Union County, NJ — As the seasonal holidays draw near, the hectic rush of shopping, traveling and preparing for visitors can put consumers at greater risk for scams, fraud and theft. The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders reminds residents that they can take a few simple steps to protect themselves.
“During the holiday season fraud increases by 20 percent,” said Freeholder Chairman Sergio Granados. “It is crucial that residents are informed of the different precautions that they can take to avoid becoming victims of fraud and theft.”
Union County residents should be aware that telephones are still a weapon of choice for scammers.
Phone scammers can take advantage of the holiday rush and catch residents off guard with a phone call. It is important to know that a legitimate government office, such as Social Security or the IRS, will never ask for personal information by phone.
Never give out Social Security numbers or other personal information over the telephone unless the caller’s identity can be verified.
Law enforcement and consumer professionals recommend that in-store shoppers prepare a list ahead of time, only carry the credit cards and ID that they need, and plan their excursions to avoid carrying too many bags at once.
When checking out of a store, shoppers should remain at the register long enough to get their receipt, put their change or credit card back in place, organize their shopping bags and ensure that their wallet or purse is secured on their person.
Shoppers are advised to never leave a purse or wallet in a shopping cart, or in an easily accessible pocket.
Thieves are known to scout parking lots, looking for vehicles with open trunks or visible packages. Shoppers should use caution when loading goods into their vehicle. Packages left in a parked car should be covered or kept in the trunk, and all doors should be checked to ensure they are locked.
Another area of risk has emerged with the growing popularity of online shopping. Theft of unattended packages from doorways and porches is becoming more common.
Online shoppers who are not home for long periods should make alternate plans for package delivery. For example, depending on the sender some packages can be directed for pickup at a local post office or delivery service.
Online scammers can also do a great amount of damage if shoppers are not careful. Home computer users should ensure that their security settings are up to date, and be on the lookout for any alerts or messages regarding possible compromises.
To help consumers avoid scams and frauds, the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs has developed an Anti-Fraud Toolkit.
To view the Toolkit online or to download the Toolkit in English or Spanish, visit fightingfraud.nj.gov.
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