The holidays are almost here! If you are planning to donate to those in need, here is what you need to know:
Holidays are a prime time for scammers. Our Consumer Affairs Branch has valuable information about some scams to watch out for:
- Counterfeit merchandise: Street vendors may sell fake watches, purses and other items that appear to be high-end, name-brand merchandise, but are cheap knockoffs.
- Fake vacation rentals: This involves advertising property that the advertiser doesn’t own. Be sure to use reputable individuals or organizations if you’re booking a rental.
- Fake charities: Never give money to any charity without checking them out first. Whether they come to your door or approach you in the mall parking lot, ask for credentials and information, and tell them you’ll consider it later. The Virginia Office of Consumer Affairs maintains a list of registered charities.
- Check scams: This usually involves cashier’s checks. Someone who wants to buy your merchandise will offer to pay more than your asking price on the condition that you return the difference. Weeks later, you find out from your bank that the check was a fake and you’re now without your money and your merchandise.
- Buying online: Make sure you check out the website where you buy the merchandise or check out the company. Some scammers set up fake websites that look legitimate but are only there to get your money.
- Items off of a truck: This is a roving gang of scammers masquerading as delivery men. They pull a truck up in a parking lot, say that they can sell you something cheap, like furniture or electronics. At best, the goods will be low-quality merchandise. At worst, you could be receiving stolen goods.
- Gift cards: Beware of tampered cards, where scammers use special software to find validated cards with money on them and then spend the money before the unsuspecting victim has a chance to spend it. Signs of tampering include missing protective stickers and PINs that are exposed. And check your balance frequently.
Many people prefer to donate to a good cause during the holiday seasons. Here a few ideas that will have a local impact.
- Gift cards for child victims: Our Police Department is accepting donations for families that have been impacted this year.
- Toys for Tots: Our Fire and Rescue Department is collecting toys for the Toys for Tots campaign.
- Help Our Homeless: Contact our community partners for information on donations and volunteering.
- Rescue animals: A $20 donation will buy toys and treats for two shelter pets.
- Protect a neighbor: $75 will pay for a home security system for victims of domestic violence.
- Reforest Fairfax: $35 will plant five new trees in Fairfax County.
- Buy a bicycle: $50 will buy a new bike for a low-income child.
- Donate kids books: $25 purchases six children’s picture books.
- Help a student: $10 buys about $30 worth of school supplies for kids in need.
- Provide health care: $300 will buy one child a year’s worth of medical care.