season is the time of year when the spirit of joy and giving is in the air.
Unfortunately, it’s also the time of year when scam artists often take advantage
of the giving spirit. Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher is urging
consumers to be extra cautious with their money to avoid financial scams.
“Take steps to protect your personal and financial information from identity
theft this holiday season, especially if you are making purchases online or over
the phone,” Gallagher said. “Scam artists who get ahold of your sensitive
information can wreak havoc with your finances.”
Consumers shopping online should also take extra precautions to avoid identity
theft, the nation’s fastest growing crime. Deal only with reputable companies
and take steps to secure your personal and financial information. Gallagher
said consumers often contact the state reporting they have been unable to find
physical addresses or phone numbers for online businesses. Some reported scams
have resulted from transactions with overseas businesses.
“Remember, a company based outside the country is outside of our laws,”
Other ways to prevent identity theft include shredding junk mail credit card
offers, reviewing all bank and credit card records and checking credit reports
at least once a year. The Department of Financial Services has available an
online resource on identity theft with links to more tips and information on
avoiding this costly scam. Consumers can log on to
www.MyFloridaCFO.com and click the “ID Theft” banner to visit the site.
Other types of scams that often find victims this time of year are phony
charitable organizations and bogus income tax scams. An individual posing as a
local charity may solicit consumers over the phone. Potential donors should ask
questions, including what the organization plans to do with the gift, and be
wary of appeals that are long on emotion and short on details. A reputable
organization will never demand cash, and all checks should be made payable to
the organization, never to an individual. Florida law also requires that
charitable organizations provide a copy of their annual financial report upon
In addition, don’t fall victim to an income tax avoidance scheme this holiday
season. Resist the urge to file for nonexistent refunds, such as social
security advances and slavery reparations. Attempting to collect on an illegal
claim can result in a $500 federal penalty. Decline to talk with anyone
offering to file a claim on your behalf for an upfront “fee.” These individuals
will cash your check and move on to the next victim.
Gallagher also provided some advice that’s good year-round. He advised
consumers who are purchasing homes, automobiles, investments or insurance to
take the time necessary to read each document or contract carefully and verify
that they are dealing with a licensed company. He urged consumers to talk with
their agents or brokers about their rights and responsibilities under the law
before signing any agreement.
For questions or to file complaints, consumers may call the Department of
Financial Services toll-free at 1-800-342-2762 or log on to
The skyline for November is the beautiful
city of Lakeland in Polk County.