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Be wary of holiday donation scams on Giving Tuesday

November 27, 2018

Santa Claus with his little red kettle and ringing bell is a welcome sight in the community, signaling the start of the holiday season. But, not every charity solicitation is as benevolent and innocuous, officials warn.

As the busiest shopping season of the year gets up to full speed, crime and scams are right behind it.

“It’s the old adage of ’If it’s too good to be true, it probably is,” said Marian Leck, The Woodlands Township’s director of Law Enforcement Services.

Shenandoah Assistant Chief of Police Barry Gresham said that following the busiest shopping weekend of the year, residents often extend that spending mantra to charitable giving — donating funds on “Giving Tuesday.” Even as the day comes and goes, the scams and potential crime for shoppers peaks at the end of the year, he added.

There aren’t any major scams to be wary of in the area as of yet, but the staff at the city of Shenandoah were alerted to one potential fraud last week — emails alleging to be from Republic Waste, the city’s trash service provider, targeted staff members, saying they were behind on their trash bill and provided a link to get current.

The only problem, Gresham said, is that residents in Shenandoah don’t receive a trash bill.

“Just be smart,” he said. “Do your research.”

In addition to online, mail or telephone scams, shoppers at The Woodlands’ Town Center, various area malls, or at Shenandoah’s Portofino Shopping Center, face victimization by criminals who could follow them as they shop and break into their cars when they take a break.

“We often see an increase of burglaries of motor vehicles around this time,” Gresham said. “It usually picks up in the month of December.”

The Woodlands saw a slight increase in car break-ins in December 2017, as opposed to November, going from 46 to 51 motor vehicle burglaries and one to two robberies, according to township law enforcement reports.

Leck said the best way to avoid becoming a victim is to be aware and be educated. Like every year before, Montgomery County sheriff’s deputies have ramped up security patrols in The Woodlands through the first of the new year — but, the threats aren’t always out in public.

Leck suggests donating to local, well-known organizations and to avoid clicking on unfamiliar links or sites that ask for money.

“Criminals today are much more savvy,” Leck said. “It’s not necessarily just knocking on your door — you can be victimized through social media or over the phone. You need to do your homework.”

mrincon@chron.com

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