The holiday season is considered ‘the most wonderful time of the year’ in the USA, but it’s also the time of year for increased theft. Being knowledgeable and prepared ahead of time will help to protect you, your family and your purchases.

WEST PALM BEACH, FL, December 08, 2018 /24-7PressRelease/ — The holiday season is considered ‘the most wonderful time of the year’ in the USA, but it’s also the time of year for increased theft. Being knowledgeable and prepared ahead of time will help to protect you, your family and your purchases.

How to Stop Porch Pirates

With more people buying gifts online for the holidays, home delivery theft seems to only get worse each year. Although the United States Postal Service, Fedex and other delivery services are taking measures on their own to try to bring relief, there are things you can do to help protect your holiday boxes and packages from being stolen.

Avoid having packages delivered to your home altogether unless you know that you or someone reliable will be there to receive it. Also, keep in mind that delivery services extend their hours during the holiday season. That means your packages may be delivered earlier or later than usual business hours.

If you are unable to monitor package deliveries, below are some alternate suggestions:

1. Use a work address for a delivery shipping addresses if possible. This is not always an option, but if you own your own business or can get permission from your employer, having packages delivered to a business address (with someone there to immediately accept them) will help to ensure your packages make it to you safely.

2. Ask a reliable neighbor if you can use their address to have items delivered. However, this can be a gamble because if a delivery is made when the neighbor decides to step out for a bit, your deliveries are still vulnerable. Also, if other family members and friends are coming in and out of your neighbor’s home, that raises a concern about how safe your packages will be.

3. Consider renting a post office box for receiving packages. Not all PO box services allow deliveries that do not fit within the actual post office box, so be sure to find that out before committing to the service.

4. Redirect the address on orders already placed. If you find out you will not be able to be home to monitor the delivery of a package after placing your order, the Redirect option may save the day. The U.S. Postal Service offers a tool online called Package Intercept that will modify the shipping address when a delivery is still in transit. The service also allows you to send an order back to the shipper or request the package be held at your local post office for you to pick up the shipment there.

5. Utilize tools and features provided by the merchant and/or the delivery service to add additional protection for your deliveries. Call; visit in person; or go online to find out what other services are offered by the carrier to increase protection for your packages. The United States Postal Service offers an option for customers to select when placing an order to ‘Hold for Pickup’. When this field is selected, packages will be held at your local post office for you to pick up at your convenience. If you are leaving town, you should also use the hold service for your regular mail. Additionally, when placing orders for new products, provide instructions to specify where at your home the package(s) should be placed if no one is home. For example, if you have an exterior safe place around your house (i.e. closet or shed) where a box may be placed to prevent others from seeing it, let them know. Another way to protect your packages is to select the service from the carrier that requires a signature upon receipt of the package.

Neighbors looking out for other neighbors is also a great way to stop porch pirates. Community crime watch programs have proven their effectiveness. By working together, communities have a greater chance of stopping and preventing crimes.

How to Avoid Gift Card Scams

Gift card scams are another way thieves take advantage of consumers and their deceptive antics thrive during the Christmas season. Companies that offer gift cards are constantly working to find ways to protect consumers from these types of scams. For instance, Apple has created a page on their website to inform customers about apple gift card theft schemes.

• Apple Itunes Gift Card Scams: One of the scams Apple includes on their website describes a scenario where a victim gets a phone call from a debt collector who frantically urges the call recipient to make a payment for some type of overdue service (i.e. bail, private loan, medical bills, taxes, utility bills, etc.) with an Apple Store gift card. The caller demands the victim purchase an Apple card and then verbally read to them the code located on the back of the card. But Apple makes it very clear within their site content that Apple gift cards can only be used to purchase goods and services offered from Apple. This includes purchases from Apple Books, Apple Music, the App Store, ITunes Store and iCloud storage.

• 3-Way Call Scam: There are websites all over cyberspace where you can sell a gift card. Cardpool.com is one of the higher-ranking sites on Google. Although there are honest potential buyers on these types of sites, you have to be knowledgeable about how to protect yourself from criminals before posting a gift card for sale. The 3-Way Call Scammer will ask the seller to confirm the gift card’s balance by calling the card’s merchant on a three-way call before completing the purchase. What the scammer is really doing during the phone call is listening closely as the seller enters the gift card’s number on the phone’s touch tone pad while simultaneously writing down the number. The scammer declines the purchase; hangs up from the call and then quickly uses the gift card – depleting its value. The seller is left with no buyer and no gift card.

• GiftGhostBot Scam: Any type of retail gift card could be affected by this particular scam. It was discovered at the beginning of 2017 and at that time had already wiped out the balance of customers’ gift cards from over a thousand retail companies. The way it works is an Advanced Persistent Bot (APB) called GiftGhostBot is programmed to access and check gift card numbers and digital tokens on retailers’ data systems to find out which have remaining balances. When the bot discovers an eligible card or token, it allows a hacker access to the funds. The best way to avoid being taken by this particular scam is to use gift cards immediately after you receive them.

• Stolen Gift Card Numbers at the Store: This type of scam is operated by a thief who physically removes a gift card from the rack at the store; records the number and then returns the card back to the rack with hopes that a customer will quickly select that particular gift card to purchase. The crook then monitors the gift card until it’s purchased then waits to find out the dollar amount allocated to the card. After the amount is retrieved, the scammer cashes out the card or uses that card’s information to create a new card. The retail companies have made attempts to modify the packaging of their gift cards in an effort to deter thieves from stealing the gift card numbers. They also made it so the customer would have to scratch-off a plastic cover to reveal the credit card’s number. Nonetheless, criminals still cause trouble by opening sealed gift cards, scratching the card for the number, then closing the card’s packaging again making it difficult to detect until it’s too late.

• Employee Gift Card Theft: The most difficult way for retailers to prevent gift card theft is by hiring dishonest employees. Store clerks have the upper hand when a customer purchases a gift card because it’s up to them to handle the activation. Unfortunately, a fraudulent scheme is played out when a customer goes to check out a gift card purchase. After the customer hands the card to the cashier for activation, the cashier does a switch and activates a different gift card than the one the customer originally handed them and returns the inactive card to the customer. It’s important to pay close attention when purchasing a gift card and watch every move of the store employee.

It’s difficult to avoid being taken by gift card scams and especially during the year-end holiday season. The Federal Trade Commission suggests the following:

– Purchase gift cards from stores you feel confident you can trust and avoid buying gift cards from online auction sites.
– Inspect gift cards and their packaging closely before choosing to buy.
– Always keep the gift card’s receipt with the actual gift card
– Review the gift card’s terms and conditions. Some cards require a fee upon purchase and some actually charge a fee each time the card is used. Most cards have an expiration date, so that’s also important to know.
– Use gift cards immediately upon receipt or as soon as possible. By using the funds on the card quickly, it reduces the opportunity for criminals to get access to the money on the card.

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