MoneyGram (NYSE: MGI), a leading global money transfer company, is warning consumers that scam artists are out to turn the season of giving into the season of taking, by attempting to defraud people out of their hard-earned money during the holiday season. That’s why the company has enlisted former NYPD detective and noted anti-fraud expert Harry Houck to raise awareness and help consumers protect themselves from becoming victims of scams typically on the rise this time of the year. “Fraudsters never take a holiday, so it’s important for consumers to be alert to signs of possible fraud, to keep their shopping and charitable dollars out of the hands of these criminals,” said Phyllis Skene-Stimac, senior vice president and chief compliance officer of MoneyGram. “At MoneyGram, we want to steal any opportunities the thieves may have to get their hands on consumers’ money through illegal methods, and help consumers learn their tricks before they become victims.” Former NYPD detective Houck added, “Three types of scams typically increase during the holiday season, with scammers attempting to extract funds from unsuspecting individuals hoping to earn extra money for holiday spending, give money to charities, and shop for gifts online.” He offers insight into red flags that consumers should watch for:
- Earning: Many people want to earn extra spending money for holiday shopping, and may be tempted by offers to “work at home” or become a “mystery shopper” for a product or retailer. The recipient may be asked to send a wire transfer or money order for a start-up kit, or the recipient receives a large check to cash – which turns out to be fraudulent – and is instructed to spend some of the money and wire the rest back. Once the consumer sends the money, there is no way to get it back.
- Giving: Legitimate charities increase their solicitations during the holidays to take advantage of feelings of goodwill, but many scammers use fake charities to try to steal money from well-meaning consumers. If a charity isn’t well known or sounds like a scam, consumers should check it out thoroughly before making a donation.
- Shopping: Products and deals advertised on the internet that seem “too good to be true” probably are. Scammers entice consumers into believing they’re getting a deal, and ask for advance payment through a money transfer or money order. Consumers won’t receive the merchandise, and they won’t get their money back.
- Recognize: Savvy consumers should look for red flags when someone asks them to send money through a wire service or money order, because scammers often request these methods knowing that once the money is sent, it cannot be retrieved.
- React: When they identify a scam, consumers should immediately put an end to any transaction or conversation – hang up the phone, delete the email, or end the back-and-forth messaging.
- Report: Report the suspected scam to the local police, and file reports with the Federal Trade Commission, National Consumers League, and Internet Crime Complaint Center (if the suspected fraud was online).