4 Mother’s Day scams you want to avoid

While shopping for mom, don’t fall for fraudsters finding more ways to scam

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail this to someonePrint this page

Did you know that with the excep­tion of Christ­mas, peo­ple spend more mon­ey on Mother’s Day than any oth­er hol­i­day? The fore­cast for 2017 is $23.6 bil­lion, and if you think scam­mers aren’t on the job, there’s a new marsh­mal­low bridge span­ning Loon Lake I’d to sell you a piece of.

In order, the most-gift­ed recip­i­ents of Mother’s Day sen­ti­men­tal swag are moth­ers and step­moth­ers, then wives, daugh­ters, sis­ters or step­sis­ters, grand­moth­ers, god­moth­er, and, for the overzeal­ous beyond that famil­ial range — friends.

Adam Levin, chair­man and co-founder of Credit.com and Cyber­Scout (for­mer­ly IDT911)

Here are four scams you’ll want to avoid while you’re shopping.

1. Greet­ing cards

These days, paper greet­ing cards cost any­where from 50 cents to $8, but the aver­age cost of a fes­tive snail-mail mis­sive is between $4 and $5. This explains the huge uptick in e-cards’ pop­u­lar­i­ty. They are more envi­ron­men­tal­ly friend­ly and cost noth­ing. Sounds like a win-win, right? Not exact­ly. This method of trans­mit­ting heart­felt sentiment—as with all new technology—has the poten­tial to cre­ate a mas­sive headache for the moth­ers in your life who have some­thing com­ing to them.

Specif­i­cal­ly, the prob­lem with e-cards is that they open the door to fake e-cards. Most peo­ple on social media accept friend requests from strangers, and once those strangers are wel­comed into the fold, they are allowed as friends to see friends of their new friends. They can fig­ure out who among your rel­a­tives has kids, and send them a fake e-card in your name—one car­ry­ing mal­ware that can steal the recipient’s iden­ti­ty or wreak hav­oc in cyber­space. One click can install a key­stroke log­ger that turns any elec­tron­ic device into a trans­mit­ter of login infor­ma­tion (endan­ger­ing every account, espe­cial­ly finances), rope devices into bot­nets that dis­trib­ute spam or launch dis­trib­uted denial of ser­vice attacks on major websites.

Remem­ber the rule: Nev­er trust, always ver­i­fy. Ask the per­son who sent you the e-card, in a sep­a­rate email, if they sent a card. Don’t click through with­out a response, because there is no way to know the URL and deter­mine if it’s legitimate.

If you’ve fall­en for this, be sure to check your cred­it for signs of mis­chief. You can view two of your cred­it scores for free on Credit.com. And, if you need to up your dig­i­tal savvy, here are four tips for inter­net safe­ty.

2. Fake flowers

Noth­ing bright­ens a mother’s day more than a beau­ti­ful bou­quet. If you are order­ing online, make sure the URL match­es the shop’s web­site if you clicked through from any­thing oth­er than your own search results. Call the shop to make sure they are the real deal.

Anoth­er favorite ruse dat­ing back some time: Sell­ing fake coupons from stores that promise month­ly or week­ly flower deliv­ery. Remem­ber, if it sounds too good to be true, most like­ly it is. Either work with a florist you know or find one near the recip­i­ent and con­duct busi­ness with them directly.

3. More fake coupons

Fake coupons for sav­ing are mak­ing the rounds again this year, most recent­ly on Face­book, where peo­ple have been tempt­ed by a $50 coupon redeemable at Lowe’s Home Improve­ment. If you click through, you’ll be asked to take a sur­vey that solic­its per­son­al infor­ma­tion and to post the offer on your Face­book time­line. Need­less to say, the coupon is worthless.

These coupons are not offers extend­ed by Lowe’s,” the com­pa­ny wrote in response to cus­tomer ques­tions on its Face­book page. “It is a scam and Lowe’s is unable to hon­or the coupon.”

Like­wise, you should avoid a sim­i­lar $75 coupon for Bed Bath & Beyond also mak­ing the rounds on social media. It’s a clas­sic phish­ing scheme. When vic­tims click on the link, they land on a fraud­u­lent site that looks like the real thing, where con­sumers are prompt­ed to enter sen­si­tive per­son­al infor­ma­tion as well as their cred­it card number.

Bed Bath & Beyond sim­i­lar­ly warned con­sumers that the coupons were fraudulent.

Cau­tion should be used when it comes to any coupons, be they for a restau­rant, an all-inclu­sive spa day or an in-home mas­sage. It’s always best to call a favorite spot and make arrange­ments. There are plen­ty of crooks out there will­ing to rep­re­sent those places to steal your per­son­al or pay­ment information.

4. Gift cards 

A whop­ping $46 bil­lion was spent on gift cards last year, and num­bers like that always attract scam artists. How it works: The scam­mer goes to the in-store sales rack and writes down the num­bers on gift cards. They then call the cus­tomer ser­vice depart­ments iden­ti­fied on the back of the cards to see if (and when) they have been acti­vat­ed. Like tax-relat­ed fraud, this scam suc­ceeds or fails depend­ing on how fast a trans­ac­tion occurs, so if you get a gift card, it’s always best to use it as soon as you can. Oth­er­wise, you may find it’s already been cashed in.

Final­ly, beware of third-par­ty sites sell­ing dis­count­ed gift cards. While some gift card resale sites are legit­i­mate and offer buy­er pro­tec­tions, not all do and open mar­ket­places that don’t spe­cial­ize in this type of sale can be par­tic­u­lar­ly sus­cep­ti­ble to fraud­sters. That’s why I rec­om­mend always going to the offi­cial finan­cial ser­vice or retailer’s web­site to pur­chase gift cards.

While it sure feels like there are more scams out there than moth­ers, it only takes one who “has your num­ber” (or email) to turn Mother’s Day into a real mutha, so be careful.

Full dis­clo­sure: Cyber­Scout spon­sors Third­Cer­tain­ty. This sto­ry orig­i­nat­ed as an Op/Ed con­tri­bu­tion to Credit.com and does not nec­es­sar­i­ly rep­re­sent the views of the com­pa­ny or its partners.

More on iden­ti­ty theft:
Iden­ti­ty Theft: What You Need to Know
3 Dumb Things You Can Do With Email
How Can You Tell If Your Iden­ti­ty Has Been Stolen?