Sheriff’s Corner: Staying Safe During the Holidays

Sheriff Tracy Murphree

The holiday season is upon us, and it’s important to be aware of scammers who may try to deceive you or steal your identity. While scams can happen at any time of the year, they tend to occur more frequently during these months. It’s essential to learn how to recognize the warning signs of common scams so we can focus on spreading cheer, making memories, and enjoying good food and company during this holiday season.

● Phishing Schemes: Do not fall for emails or text messages directing you to enter payment information or other personal details. Some of these emails and websites look legit but beware of fake websites. Check the URL, watch for grammar or spelling mistakes, and search for online reviews. If it is a company that you have an account with, always contact the company’s help desk and verify.

● Credit card skimming: Use credit cards for your online purchases. Debit cards don’t offer the same level of protection against fraudulent card use as credit cards. Do not save your credit card information on retail sites. Enable purchase alerts on all of your credit cards. Always use a credit card over a debit card or use a cash app like Venmo or PayPal. If someone scams you using your credit card numbers, you have a better chance of getting your money back.

● ‘Secret Sister’ gift exchanges: This is a pyramid scheme and could compromise your personal information. Ignore these schemes, and report them on social media.

● Juice-jacking in public places like airports: Do not use USB charging ports in public places as hackers can install software that downloads malicious code to your device, granting them access to your personal information.

● Phone/Artificial Intelligence Scams: Artificial intelligence is making phone scams more sophisticated and more believable. Scam artists are now using the technology to clone voices, including those of friends and family. In the past, we have experienced a rash of scam calls from people representing themselves as current members of the DCSO. Please know that a legitimate law enforcement agency will never call citizens and request or demand money from them via phone.

● Fake Online Stores: A scam that will use ads on social media that lead you to fake online stores that steal your money, credit card details, or personal information.

● Fake Text Messages: Scammers send fake text messages claiming that a package you’re waiting for has been delayed or that you need to pay a fee before it can be delivered

Many schemes take advantage of popular holiday items or inflated travel costs to get you to buy fake tickets or items. Scammers will also impersonate well-known brands to steal your personal information. They will send emails, texts, or make calls claiming to be from companies you know (like Amazon or Walmart) and steal your login information or money.

I would like to suggest some safety tips. If you are going to be away from your residence for a while, it’s wise to leave some lights on or have an automatic timer for your lights. You might also consider asking a trustworthy neighbor to keep an eye on your house while you’re gone.

When shopping, be cautious and aware of your surroundings. Park in well-lit areas, lock your car, and conceal shopping bags or gifts in your trunk. Try to avoid carrying large sums of cash while out, and when possible, walk to your car with someone or ask for assistance from a security officer or store employee after dark. Be cautious of criminals posing as delivery couriers during the holiday season. Monitor the expected delivery time of your packages and avoid leaving them unattended. If you won’t be home, consider having your packages delivered to an alternate address or speaking with your neighbors about keeping an eye out for them. Most importantly, trust your instincts and be alert at all times. Sheriff Tracy Murphree and the Denton County Sheriff’s Office staff wish you and your family a very blessed Holiday Season!

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