Cindy Lou Moody
If there are 12 days of Christmas, then there are 12 ways for scammers to spread their Christmas drear.
In an attempt to help residents better protect themselves from fraudsters, Attorney General Ashley Moody this week issued a Consumer Alert highlighting some of the holiday fraud that consumers should be wary of. The alert includes 12 schemes for consumers to avoid.
“It’s a busy time of year for shoppers, retailers and delivery companies as millions of gifts are sold, shipped and delivered. It’s also a busy season for scammers concocting schemes to exploit the holiday demand,” Moody said in a statement announcing the tips.
Here’s the list. Don’t be afraid to sing along.
On the 12th day of Christmas, my scammer gave to me:
—Fake gift exchanges: Fraudulent online holiday gift exchange events are advertised on social media with promises of multiple gifts after paying it forward. Oftentimes, this is a pyramid scheme in disguise.
—Lookalike webpages: Traffic to fake websites spike during the holiday season. Floridians must make sure a website is secure and the domain is accurate before inputting personal or financial information.
—Temp holiday jobs: Seasonal job opportunities are posted online in an effort to steal information from applicants or obtain free work without paying a hopeful employee.
—Chick-fil-A gift cards: Some schemers reveal and record codes from gift cards in stores, stealing the value of the card once it is purchased and activated.
—Vacation fakers: Scammers may make fake postings offering vacation rental properties or travel deals that are too good to be true, like holiday pricing and packages.
—Package tracking scammers: A form of smishing—text-message phishing—scammers send deceptive messages intended to lure recipients into providing personal or financial information. The messages are disguised as package-tracking updates.
—Phishing emails: Phishing messages are a year-round attack from schemers, but messages may be tailored around the holiday season. Emails may appear to originate from a trusted merchant, but instead originate from a schemer hoping to gather personal or financial information.
—Fraud charities: Deceptive and phony online fundraising campaigns may be posted on crowdsourcing platforms. Ensure legitimacy by researching an organization on CharityNavigator.org before giving.
—Public Wi-Fi risks: Refrain from using public Wi-Fi when shopping online since hackers can take advantage of public networks that are not secure to steal personal information.
—Porch pirates: If a mailbox shows signs of being tampered with or packages are missing from a consumer’s front door, this may be a sign of delivery theft. Control delivery times or purchase a secure mailbox to avoid theft.
—Counterfeit toys: Scammers create fake discount offers for trending toys, but instead send counterfeit toys — or no toys at all — bilking consumers of money and potentially stealing personal information.
—And shoulder surfing and card skimming: Be wary when using an ATM while holiday shopping. Check to see if an ATM looks tampered with and that surroundings are clear before typing in a PIN code or other personal information.
Coming up, the usual assortment of news, intel and observations from the week that was in Florida’s capital city by Peter Schorsch, Drew Wilson, Renzo Downey, Christine Jordan Sexton and the staff of Florida Politics.
But first …
The “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
Property insurance bill passed and signed — Following this week’s Special Session, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Republicans’ property insurance legislation. The law is a major rewrite of property insurance laws that seeks to limit lawsuits and stabilize a beleaguered market that has seen six companies fail this year. Dozens of others have canceled policies and hiked rates. The bill largely passed along partisan lines, as Democrats said the bill gives too much to insurance companies without mandatory rate reductions or protections for consumers.
DeSantis calls for vaccine grand jury — The Governor requested the state Supreme Court to impanel a statewide grand jury to investigate crimes and wrongdoings the pharmaceutical industry may have committed against the state’s residents regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. He also announced that he was establishing a Public Health Integrity Committee. “An investigation is warranted to determine whether the pharmaceutical industry has engaged in fraudulent practices,” according to his petition. “The people of Florida deserve to know the truth.”
School districts change LGBTQ policy — Ten school districts have pulled LGBTQ support and changed locker room policies in response to Florida’s parental rights in education law. The State Board of Education had sent letters to the 10 school districts last month warning them that they have policies that might not comply with the new law. LGBTQ activists say the change in policies are proving the fears of critics to be true, that the law would cause districts to shy away from LGBTQ support functions.
Hurricane and toll relief becomes law — The Governor also signed the two other bills that emerged from the Special Session, one providing property tax relief for hurricane victims and another providing a toll credit system for frequent commuters. Both measures passed the Legislature unanimously, but not without Democrats voicing concerns. On hurricane relief, concerns about beach renourishment, affordable housing and local government funding entered discussions. On toll relief, Democrats argued the Legislature should’ve created a more equitable relief program.
DeSantis, Kathleen Passidomo signal abortion positions — DeSantis says he is ready to sign a “heartbeat” abortion bill. But only an hour before the Governor stated that position to reporters in Fort Lauderdale, Senate President Passidomo told reporters in Tallahassee that she would support a 12-week provision with exceptions for rape and incest, unlike Florida’s current 15-week law that’s in court. “I felt we should have included an exception for rape and incest in the bill that we passed,” Passidomo said. “I advocated for it but like everything the bill had been agreed upon, et cetera. So, it didn’t pass with the exception.” Passidomo also said she is holding off on tackling abortion until the state Supreme Court finalizes a ruling on the bill from this year’s Session.
It’s still 2022, but DeSantis is already sporting his international bona fides.
The Governor hosted delegations from Israel and the United Arab Emirates in his office this week. The two countries’ ambassadors also invited the Governor to visit next year, a potential follow-up to Florida’s trade delegation to Israel in 2019.
Michael Herzog and Yousef Al Otaiba joined Ron DeSantis for a mini international summit. Image via Twitter/Michael Herzog.
Michael Herzog, Ambassador of Israel to the United States, tweeted photos of his meeting with DeSantis on Thursday. Joining in one picture was UAE Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba.
“We gave an overview of the Abraham Accords and the strategic significance and opportunities that they present to our region, the world and to Florida,” Herzog tweeted. “We invited him to visit our countries in 2023.”
“I also thanked Governor DeSantis for his strong support of Israel & for the significant steps he has taken to combat antisemitism,” Herzog continued. “We look forward to continuing to work with him to deepen Israel-Florida relations & to connect Florida to the exciting new dynamic in our region.”
Maor Elbaz-Starinsky, Consul General of Israel’s diplomatic mission in Miami, also tweeted about the appearance with the Governor. In addition, Israel in Miami posted photos of the meeting and expressed their interest in working with the new Senate President during the 2023 Session.
Herzog and Al Otaiba also paid a visit to the American Jewish Committee, led by CEO and former U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch.
Moody joined 14 other state attorneys general in writing letters to Apple and Google demanding the companies raise the age ratings of TikTok on their respective App and Play stores.
The 15 top cops say raising the ratings from “12+” and “Teen” to 17 and older will help parents protect their children from being exposed to harmful content online.
“While our investigation into TikTok continues, it is important that action is taken now to better protect children from harmful content they might encounter on this China-owned social media platform,” Moody said in a statement. “If TikTok isn’t banned outright, app stores should at the very least increase the age rating on the TikTok app to ensure parents know that this social media platform is not appropriate for users under the age of 17.”
In a pair of letters to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, the coalition of attorneys general outlined the deceptive nature of the current ratings for the social media platform. The letters state that without taking the necessary steps to increase the age rating and change the accompanying age descriptions, the states reserve the right to take appropriate legal action against the companies.
“Parents depend on the accuracy of age ratings,” according to the letters. “When parents are deceived into letting their kids download TikTok, there are real consequences. Exposure to drug, alcohol and tobacco content on social media makes kids more likely to use or experiment with those illicit substances in real life. And exposure to sexual content on TikTok can lead to pornography addiction and even the sexual exploitation of kids by online predators.”
Joining Moody in the letter are attorneys general from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Virginia.
This article originally appeared here and was republished with permission.