As the holiday season offically gets underway this week, South Carolina law enforcement officers are urging shoppers to be careful. SLED and the Secret Service are warning that December sees the most fraud, scams, and counterfeiting out of any month of the year.
In a press conference Monday, SLED director Reggie Lloyd warned the public to be on their guard against thieves. He says holiday shoppers are often easy targets.
They’re thinking about wonderful holiday parties. They’re thinking about getting together with family. They sort of let their guard down and they’re leaving packages in their car. They’re leaving their homes and windows open so that people see Christmas presents.
Columbia police chief Randy Scott says little steps can help prevent crime.
When you do get those great gifts (from the store), don’t just leave them in the car in the driveway overnight. Or when you do purchase that large-screen TV, just simply putting that box outside your home is like an advertisement.
While theft is a major problem, Lloyd says fraud is also an issue in the state.
South Carolina, unfortunately, is a state where we have too many victims of…white collar crime. All of those types of schemes generally, with the increase of activity during the holidays, with people distracted… generally increase.
Counterfeiting also goes up before Christmas. The Secret Service says they expect around $50,000 in counterfeit bills will appear in the Midlands alone this year. That’s easily above the area monthly average of $30,000 to $40,000. The Secret Service’s special agent overseeing the Columbia office, Mike Williams, warned shoppers to watch out.
If you suspect that you have a counterfeit bill, take the necessary precautions to make sure that it’s genuine. Because, if that bill is counterfeit, it’s a loss either to that consumer or to that business.
Williams recommended examining security fibers that can be seen when the bill is held up to the light. If the bill is authentic, you should be able to read its denomination (such as “twenty dollars,” for example). You can also check to see if the portrait looks three-dimensional and is slightly to the left, rather than directly in the middle, of the bill.
Scammers are also using new technology to steal credit card information. Lloyd said some of the methods include creating fake websites posing as real stores, and illegally setting up “skimming” devices at ATMs that can read card account information.
If you suspect that your card information has been stolen, you should contact your bank and credit card company as soon as possible to let them know, Lloyd said.
Scott said officers aren’t trying to scare anyone, but just alerting shoppers so they know what’s out there.
We’re just putting this information out…We encourage you to shop and have a great holiday season. These are just some of the tips that we wanted to reiterate so you won’t be that victim and ruin your holiday.
SLED is stepping up enforcement over the next month to prepare for the holiday rush.