They’re out to get you this holiday season. They’ll steal your credit card information, take checks out of your mailbox, present you with counterfeit money, shoplift from your store, con you with fraudulent repair or construction schemes and steal your company’s checkbook or your employees’ purses as they visit your bathroom.
Detective Beverly Russell of the Athens-Clarke Police Department didn’t offer a lot of “peace on earth, good will toward men” sentiment last Thursday as she warned the Commerce Area Business Association about the various methods by which crooks will steal and commit fraud.
The lesson: Never underestimate the ingenuity of people who lie, cheat and steal for a living.
Russell alternately warned members of ways they can be ripped off and entertained them with tales of crooks caught and foolish people duped.
Here’s a sampling of her advice:
•pay everything you can online to avoid sending checks via mail
•check your credit card account daily
•do not use the U.S. mail
•check your credit reports, and if you find something wrong, dispute it
•freeze your credit report
•don’t put outgoing mail in your mailbox overnight
•in your business, do not leave mail on the counter for the postal carrier
•keep your eyes on your employees to note sudden economic changes
•when making a credit card purchase, observe the credit card machine to see if anything is plugged into it that shouldn’t be
•give female employees a safe place — preferably one they can lock — to keep their purses
•pay attention to currency — if Alexander Hamilton’s photo is not on a bill, it’s not a $20 — and look for the water marks. (“I stand in front of the register and check the bills,” Russell said. “It drives my husband crazy.”)
•if you suspect currency or a check is fake, dial 911 — “You don’t have to even say anything, they’ll send an officer,” Russell said.
•install a good video security system that stores video for at least 60 days. That will help police and is a protection for store employees.
•look out for “travelers,” organized groups, mostly from Murphyville, SC, and Ohio, who, exist on fraud, shoplifting and slip-and-fall capers
•be sure your credit card processing company is on the up and up
•make sure your employees are legal and report any faulty documents
•photocopy IDs and other documents
•never put your credit card down when making a purchase
•get to know the police officers who work your street
“These people like these small towns because everyone is so friendly,” she said.
And con and fraud artists are not just out there to make money. It’s fun to rip people off.
“It’s not about the money. It’s about the game,” said Russell. “It’s about the con.
“It’s coming,” she said of a wave of fraud-based crime. “People will use (economics) as an excuse. They would have stole it regardless.”