Hop to it: Six Easter scams you want to avoid

The bad guys are on the hunt for more than eggs; keep your guard up

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

East­er is a time for fam­i­ly, col­or­ful par­ties and egg hunts, but sad­ly it also attracts scam artists look­ing to make a quick buck dur­ing the high-fruc­tose corn syrup free-for-all.

There are all stripes of East­er­time cons and scams wait­ing for you if you’re not pay­ing attention—or even if you are. Some don’t real­ly qual­i­fy as scams, whether we’re talk­ing about those col­or­ful plas­tic eggs for stor­ing treats, some­times loaded with lead paint, that old favorite Kinder Eggs, now ille­gal due to chok­ing haz­ards, or folks sell­ing bad choco­late. First and fore­most, you need to be a savvy con­sumer.

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

But aware­ness isn’t such an easy thing when there are so many ways a per­son can get scammed. Here are six scams to watch out for.

1. Char­i­ty scams

Some peo­ple say East­er was orig­i­nal­ly a pagan hol­i­day to cel­e­brate fer­til­i­ty, which explains the eggs and bun­nies, but it’s pri­mar­i­ly a reli­gious hol­i­day, and as such there are plen­ty of scams out there point­ed at spir­i­tu­al­ly mind­ed peo­ple look­ing to make the world a bet­ter place.

If you get an email from a char­i­ty, even if it’s one you’ve giv­en to in the past, don’t click any links. Type in the URL or find it through search and make sure the address is cor­rect. Scam sites often will be slight­ly dif­fer­ent than legit­i­mate ones. And although this should go with­out say­ing, nev­er give a dona­tion over the phone if you receive an unso­licit­ed solic­i­ta­tion. Call the char­i­ty, or use a secure site to make your con­tri­bu­tion rather than pro­vid­ing your infor­ma­tion by phone, or send a check.

2. E-cards

As I’ve said ad nau­se­am, includ­ing in my book Swiped: How to Pro­tect Your­self in a World Full of Scam­mers, Phish­ers and Iden­ti­ty Thieves, nev­er click strange links or down­load files you receive—even e-cards that appear to be from loved ones or friends. E-cards can mask links to mal­ware.

3. Cute meme scams

The same thing goes for all the cute stuff you get via email this time of year. Before you click on the link below a mes­sage, ask your­self: Is it worth hours of has­sle get­ting a virus off your com­put­er or caus­ing mal­ware to install ran­somware or a key­stroke log­ger on your machine that gives a crook access to every finan­cial account you vis­it on your com­put­er?

4. Pet scams

For bet­ter or worse (usu­al­ly worse for the ani­mals), adorable pet babies are a gift idea asso­ci­at­ed with East­er. In addi­tion to the ques­tion as to whether unex­pect­ed live­stock or wood­land crea­tures are a good idea, if you’re going to go pet shop­ping for the hol­i­day, beware that scam­mers are lying in wait to grab your mon­ey and dis­ap­pear into thin air. When­ev­er buy­ing a pet, do it in per­son.

5. Air­line scams

East­er Week is often dur­ing a school recess, and many peo­ple try to book last-minute trav­el. Be very care­ful when book­ing flights. Take the time to deter­mine whether or not it’s a scam. For starters, only do busi­ness with a secure (look for the pad­lock next to the URL) and well-reviewed site, and make sure the address is cor­rect. (You can see more tips for surf­ing the inter­net safe­ly here.) Also take the time to read and under­stand the pri­va­cy pol­i­cy.

It could be that you receive an email or a phone call inform­ing you that you have a chance to cash in on a big win: Free air­line tick­ets. There have been sev­er­al attempts to con­tact you about the tick­ets (you won them through a sweep­stakes you have nev­er heard of, in which you were auto­mat­i­cal­ly enrolled when you pur­chased some prod­uct or ser­vice you can’t recall) and you’re going to lose the tick­ets if you don’t act quick­ly. There are cer­tain require­ments. But meet­ing those oblig­a­tions will cost you far more than the alleged free tick­ets.

6. Last-minute vaca­tion rental scam

The scam hap­pens when a thief finds a rental prop­er­ty online and uses the details to cre­ate his or her own web­site and list­ing. There may even be bogus five-star reviews, and the deal will sound par­tic­u­lar­ly afford­able, pos­si­bly due to a one-day-only inter­net sale. You book the list­ing, pay either by cred­it card or wire trans­fer, and pack your bags.

Here’s the prob­lem: When the time comes and you show up for your vaca­tion, that’s not your con­do. It’s not just a mat­ter of bait and switch, where the gor­geous prop­er­ty on the web­site doesn’t exact­ly live up to the real­i­ty. In this case, the prop­er­ty is very real and even very beau­ti­ful … but you didn’t rent it. There may even be anoth­er fam­i­ly inside. You now find your­self on vaca­tion with nowhere to sleep, and your scam­mer is nowhere to be found.

The thing about an East­er sug­ar high is that it makes you hap­py, and then you crash. When it comes to these scams, it’s all crash and no high. If you have rea­son to believe you’ve been the vic­tim of a scam, don’t brush it off. You can check for warn­ing signs by view­ing two of your free cred­it scores on Credit.com.

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?