The 2021 holiday shopping season promises to be an unpredictable one, and the riskiest scam for consumers is online purchase scams. The Wallet Warnings program provided by the Shelby County Trustee’s Office through its Consumer Financial Protection Initiative is designed to provide information to shop and give safely and smartly this holiday season. 

by Regina Morrison Newman —

Regina Morrison Newman is the Shelby County Trustee.

Tis the season of gifting, giving and grifting. While most of us are caught up in the holiday spirit on the first two, scammers and thieves are busy figuring out how they can take advantage of your generosity.

The 2021 holiday shopping season promises to be an unpredictable one, and the riskiest scam for consumers is online purchase scams. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) reports that so far in 2021 we have had 191 online shopping scam reports from Shelby County, for a reported loss of $144,300, surpassing last year’s totals.

As part of the Wallet Warnings program provided by the Shelby County Trustee’s Office through its Consumer Financial Protection Initiative, we want to empower you with information to shop and give safely and smartly this holiday season.

With more of us shopping online for convenience and due to COVID, it is more important than ever to be a smart online consumer. Be sure to keep the following tips in mind as you shop online:

  • Never do any shopping or access your bank account from a public, non-secure WIFI network.
  • Be aware of unsecure websites – don’t order from unknown websites or if they don’t have the lock symbol on the bottom of their webpages.
  • Try not to store your credit card information on websites when you make purchases. Hackers will have a harder time getting your information.
  • Beware of ads on social media for great-priced merchandise coming from overseas.
  • Before you buy anything from a website new to you, do a quick web search for reviews of that site.

When shopping in person, you need to be aware, too. Thieves never miss a chance to take advantage of your distractions to skim your account information or even steal your entire wallet. Follow these tips to avoid the hassle of credit/debit card fraud:

  • Never leave your purse or wallet open – keep it closed and close.
  • Don’t let your credit or debit card out of your sight if you can help it.
  • Consider getting an RFID wallet or card protector for your credit/debit cards – they are inexpensive and prevent people from cloning your cards without your knowledge.
  • Check your bank and credit card statements regularly and report unknown or suspicious charges ASAP.

So many year-end solicitations are inundating our mailboxes and inboxes. Scammers and non-profits alike are aware of Memphis’s reputation as the most charitable community in the country. Before you donate, make sure you do a little bit of homework about the charity requesting your donation, especially if the charity is unknown to you.

  • Make sure the organization is legitimate by checking LiveGive.org for local charities or www.charitynavigator.org for local and national charities.
  • Give directly through the organization by calling or going directly to their website rather than over the phone or clicking a link through email.
  • Don’t make a purchase, donate to a charity or conduct other financial business online while using a public Wi-Fi network. It might not be secure.

Thanks to a grant from the Cities for Financial Empowerment, the Trustee’s Office is able to provide the Consumer Financial Protection Initiative. This is one of many programs we host to help you protect your finances and stay on firm financial footing.

For our other programs, including the Greater Memphis Financial Empowerment Center (www.gmfec.org), Bank on Memphis, call our Trustee Programs coordinator at 901-222-0206.

For tax relief (recently doubled) and tax freeze for seniors, the disabled, and veterans, call 901-222-0200 or visit www.shelbycountytrustee.com for more information.