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Spot a scammer this holiday season

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‘Tis the season for scam artists.

AARP, the retired people’s organization, has released four top ways con artists are taking advantage of Placer County residents and how to spot them.

Watch out for online scams

AARP advises to only use trusted sites to make online transactions and be wary of steeply discounted items. Sometimes scammers will attempt to lure online users into making a purchase with phony web sales. In addition, for those buying or selling goods online, use a website or app that uses proper safety measures to ensure that you don’t lose your money in the process.

Phony job postings

Over 500,000 people take seasonal jobs during the holiday season, AARP said. Scammers can take advantage of seasonal workers by posing as potential employers on third-party websites. When prospective employees apply for these job listings, they will be asked to provide personal information such as their date of birth, address and Social Security number for “verification purposes.” Scammers can then use this information to steal identities. One big red flag to look out for, AARP said, is a job which offers a lot of money for very little work.

“If the position seems too good to be true, it is probably a scam,” AARP said.

The organization advises to go directly to the business’ website or give them a call about the open position.

Fake rental ads

Be cautious of false online rental advertisements. Do not use third party websites to book hotels and be particularly wary of home rentals, AARP said. Verify listings through online consumer feedback before closing the deal. Some scammers will copy photos and details from real rental listings. They then accept pre-payment for booking the house or apartment. AARP advises to never give someone money before seeing the place, and always verify the listing with hotels directly before booking any rooms.

Imitation utility workers

Some scammers call pretending to be a representative from a local utility provider.  The fraudster will claim that previous payments haven’t cleared or that money is owed. They will say that you need to pay the outstanding balance over the phone, or else your power, heat, or water will be turned off within the hour. The swindler will insist the bill wasn’t paid and will demand payment over the phone with a credit card or a cash transfer. It is best to hang up and call the utility provider directly to confirm your billing status.

Scams can be reported to Auburn Police Department or Placer County Sheriff’s. For more information on spotting scams, visit aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork.