Protecting yourself from scams during the holiday season

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - The holiday season is a popular time for scammers because people can be easy targets if you tug at heart strings and people who shop online can be easy targets. Attorney General Marty Jackley said more than eight cases of the grandparent scam have been reported just in the last week in South Dakota.

In three of the cases that were reported, people sent money. Someone sent $145,000. The Attorney General said his office is working to get that money back though.

What happens in the grandparent scam is the scammer will call the grandparent, usually from overseas, and pretend to be a grandchild or loved one. The scammer will then pretend like they are crying and say something like, "Grandma?" and this is a way to get the senior to say the grandchild's name, "Is that you?" Jackley said a lot of the time the grandparent gives the answers to the scammer, which is what you don't want to do. In the initial conversation, the grandchild will indicate that they are in some type of medical or legal emergency and they need money right away.

There are some ways to avoid falling victim to this scam though. If you have any inclination that it's a scam, then hang up the phone. As soon as you're off the phone, call your grandchild to check on them. If you're on the phone and the caller says not to tell anyone else because he or she will get in trouble, just know that's all part of the scam. If you do stay on the phone, then ask specific questions like what is the grandchild's favorite pet?

The Attorney General said to be cautious if you do that though because the scammers are getting so savvy now they're using social media to make the call sound more legitimate. Jackley said this is a popular time of year for scams, but he doesn't remember this amount of calls with this much financial loss.

"We often see these types of scams around the holiday season. It's where often times, people are most vulnerable. You can tug at the heart a little easier," Jackley said.

If you receive a phone call like this and even don't send money, still call the Attorney General's office to report it. That phone number is 1-800-300-1986 and reporting it helps them in the investigation process.

Another scam circulating right now that online shoppers need to be more aware of is an email that looks like it's from Amazon. The state director for the Better Business Bureau, Jessie Schmidt, said Amazon is such a trusted online retailer that they are an easy target.

The picture in this article is an example of an email that may get sent to an inbox. It has an Amazon logo, uses all of the same colors as the online retailer and looks pretty legitimate.

In the email, the sender will ask you to verify your account by clicking on a link that takes you to a 3rd party website where the scammer will get your password information or download malware onto your computer. If you use your phone to do some online shopping, then be sure to update all of the apps because a lot of the times there is a bug fix to block scammers in the update. If you shop on your desktop computer, then make sure it's protected with virus software.

Be sure to look at the email address of the sender when you're browsing through your emails. A lot of the times that is a good indicator that it's from a scammer.

Be proactive in case you do get scammed and make sure you are paying with a credit card when shopping online. It's easier to dispute an issue and get your money back with a credit card instead of a debit card.

The last thing is to not say the scam won't happen to you because hundreds of thousands of these phishing emails get sent out every day.
"All of our data is out there. All of us have been compromised at some level. There's no disputing that any longer," said Schmidt. "With all of the big breaches that have happened over the last year, most of our information is out there somewhere. It's just a matter of somebody capturing it and capitalizing on it."