Orion Twp. Sheriff’s Office offers advice on avoiding online, phone fraud, ID theft this holiday season

By Jim Newell
Review Editor
ORION TWP. — It’s just 25 days until Christmas and while many people will be out merrily shopping at brick-and-mortar stores, a significant portion will also be clicking away on their digital devices.
And with online shopping comes the potential for electronic fraud and identity theft.
Lt. Darren Ofiara, commander of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Orion Township substation, warns residents to be ever-mindful of scams, fraud and identity theft this holiday season.
“As the holidays approach there will be more fraud reported, whether it be in person or, more importantly, online. Please know that random calls, links popping up on your computer are usually scams. Do not – I can’t emphasize this enough – click on unknown links or call telephone numbers sent in correspondence,” Ofiara said. “If you need to contact a company to confirm, use an independent search or known number to contact that company. Do not directly contact those who reached out to you.”
(See Public Safety beginning on page 5 for some examples of recent incidents.)
Giving personal information online or over the phone to someone who has contacted you is another red flag. Legitimate companies will give you the opportunity to look up a number and call them back without pressuring you to make a decision on the spot.
“Please know that businesses will rarely, if ever, ask you for personal information. If they do, please DO NOT call the number they give you. Find a contact number for the said company and call yourself. If someone asks you to pay in a crypto currency, such as Bitcoin or in gift cards, it is a scam. Do not pay. This will increase during the holidays so please stay vigilant. If you have questions, please call the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office for assistance,” Ofiara said.
It is also a wise idea to pay closer attention to the credit card and bank statements during the holidays.
“Keep tabs on your accounts and spending and report unauthorized spending,” Ofiara said.
The holiday season is also “The Giving Season”— when people want to help others less fortunate by making donations.
Unfortunately, scammers also prey on the generosity of others and try to solicit funds online or over the phone.
“This is the time of year where we support others which is great but, we can be taken advantage of due to generosity. Please play smart, help those in need and protect yourselves as we support those who need assistance,” Ofiara said.
Follow the same rules for donations as you would for shopping: independently verify the organization asking for funds, find contact information yourself and then call them back to donate or send checks to verified addresses.
If one organization is high-pressure, there are always others who need help.

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