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Beware year-end ID theft and quick cash scams

Mantel decorations Santa head lights
Nothing says Merry Christmas like the disembodied Santa head lights (click for a closer, clearer view) that brighten our fireplace hearth each holiday season. (Please ignore my reflected selfie!) And yes, this and other Christmas decorations are already, before Thanksgiving, up at our house! Ho, Ho, Ho!

I know we've yet to celebrate Thanksgiving, but I can tell that Christmas is near, too.


Well, in addition to having already decorated our house (interior only so far for us, but ho-ho-holiday lights are already on some of our neighbors' houses) for Santa's annual arrival, I'm getting the usual year-end flood of spam phishing scams promising me money just in time for the gift buying season.

So far, I've been contacted by the presidents of Benin and Nigeria (is this a step up from the old prince?), diplomatic agents from other relatively unknown countries, the International Bank for Reconstruction & Development (IBRD World Bank) and the "transfer inspection officer" at my personal bank.

Money giveaways is NOT one of the alerts I signed up for at my bank's online site.

Federal fakers, too: Fake U.S. government offices and agents also are getting in on the scams.

I've gotten recent fake emails from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Vice President Mr. Mike Pence (yep, the prefix was included in the message) and acting Homeland Security head Elaine Duke. That's Ms. — I'm sorry — Gen. Duke's generous, albeit fake, offer below. You can click on her message for a larger view that will let you see all I could get.

Elaine Duke ID theft phishing scam email

As a tax journalist, my favorite was, of course, from U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, or as he introduced himself in the most recent spam email, the head of the "executive agency responsible for promoting economic prosperity and ensuring the financial security of the United States."

Mnuchin now joins his predecessor Jack Lew in being used by tax identity theft crooks on scam emails they send me. At least they keep up with presidential administration changes.

$ hooks to phish for personal info: All of these imposters are promising amounts ranging from $1.5 million to $25.5 million. My mind boggles at the thought of all the presents even that smaller amount of millions could buy!

That, apparently, is what the slew of scammers are hoping I and the other spam scam targets will think.

All this fall-into-my-lap wealth will cost me, depending on the email sender, is a few dollars to release the documents.

And, oh yeah, my financial identity details. We're talking name, address, bank and/or credit or debit card account numbers, phone numbers (land, mobile and fax), age, occupation, marital status

Well, phishing identity thieves, think again.

I am not that gullible. And I'm hoping that most other Americans aren't either.

Obviously, though, some folk still fall for this crap, since it still gets shoveled out to email boxes on a daily basis.

No tax scam yet, but just wait: I've not received any tax-related phishing scams, but you can bet those crooks are gearing up for the upcoming tax season (whenever it might start).

In fact, IRS.gov's home page today features a recent Twitter post warning tax pros about the latest identity theft scheme targeting them. 

IRS dot gov Twitter scam item screen shot

So as you get set to enjoy the holidays, make sure the only people you invite into your home and life are your friends and families. Don't let identity thieves and other financial crooks wheedle their way into your finances and festivities.

You can find tips from the IRS on how to avoid scams, as well as in these items from the ol' blog:

Ho, Ho, Ho! Finally, a quick P.S. to those ready to send me angry email about celebrating Christmas too early. Don't.

I've heard it all before and if it works for you to go full-bore for both Thanksgiving and Christmas or whatever end-of-year holiday you celebrate, good for you.

But that doesn't work for me. The two are too close together. Canada has it right, holding Thanksgiving in early October, an actual harvest month.

So I choose between Thanksgiving and Christmas, which seems fitting since the dates of both were arbitrarily chosen. Dec. 25 was selected by the early Roman Catholic church to pull pagans and their end-of-year celebrations into the Christianity fold. Thanksgiving came to be celebrated on a national scale at the end of November first by President Abraham Lincoln as a way to seek some brief respite from the ongoing Civil War.

Since Christmas is my favorite holiday, it won the month-or-less-apart holiday battle.

I love Christmas with all its lights, decorations and music. Heck, I've even incorporated Christmas carols into tax tips! I love the ham we serve on Dec. 25 because I love pork more than turkey. Basically, I just love the December holiday season for any and all reasons. And I love it so much that I want to extend it.

Plus, I hate taking the time to put up all our decorations (and it's a lot of time since we've collected a lot of ornaments, some shown below, and the like over our three-plus decades together) and then then taking them down about a month later.

Holiday ornaments

A few years ago I finally wore down convinced the hubby to decorate for Christmas in early November. Like the first weekend after Halloween.

It works for us. And I've discovered that turkey and dressing taste exactly the same with our tree up and mantel decorated.

So ho, ho, ho and happy holidays to us all regardless of which ones we celebrate and how we choose to do so!



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Kay Bell

Wise words indeed, Henry. Thanks for sharing.


Let me add a tip, Kay: don't make it easy for them.

There are zillions of people who are walking the thin line between careless and reckless sharing more personal information than anybody ever should on social media sites every day; making easy for any dishonest guy to read it, analyze it and send in a very effective scam email tailored just for you (spear phishing).

Any antivirus software will detect that, so my tip is double-think before you click on post.

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