It Is Not Your Fault!

About 2.4 million consumers were victims of fraud and scams last year, with losses of $2.6 billion. Yes, billion.

By Catherine Blinder

These were smart consumers of every age, education level, race, ethnicity, ability, and geographical area. And still, someone convinced them to give them their life savings, and access to their personal, private, or financial information, and are often left with guilt and embarrassment in addition to the financial losses.

Unless you live in a cave and have no contact with technology of any kind, you are vulnerable to increasingly more sophisticated scammers.

It is not your fault!!! You are the victim of a crime – plain and simple. But by sharing your story with others and letting them know what to avoid, you can help others. An educated consumer is a smart consumer.

Let’s address two scams relevant to the holidays, and maybe we can save you some trouble as you buy food, gifts, decorations, and other holiday items online, and donate to charities you care about.  

What if something you’ve ordered shows up differently than advertised? Or damaged? Or never come at all? If so, you’re not alone.

Scammers often pose as real companies online — or make up fake companies — to try to get your money or personal information, especially credit card numbers. They may post fake ads for things on social media or other websites, and use a real company’s logo, or very close to it! Sometimes it is very hard to tell the fake from the real, but one way to know is when they take your money and don’t send what you ordered. 

Here are some ways to protect yourself when shopping online:

Pay by credit card. If you’re charged twice, billed for something you never got, or get a wrong or damaged item, you can dispute the charge with your credit card company. You can’t do that with a debit card or gift card.

Check out the company. Before you buy, search online for the company’s name along with words like “scam” or “fraud” to see what issues others might have had. 

Don’t respond directly to the link, log out and google the company’s name to see if the same website or contact information comes up.

Keep records. Note down the company’s name and website, any receipts or bank statements showing what you paid, and when they said they’d ship your item. (Sellers have to ship your order by the time they or their ads say they will — or give you the chance to get your money back.)

If an online seller hasn’t lived up to its promises, report it to the FTC:

Another scam that increases during this season is one that involves phony charities taking advantage of recent tragedies or just the natural feeling of generosity that accompanies the holidays.

How to avoid charity scams:

Many of us want to help others, both during the holidays and at other times of the year. We hear about terrible weather events, wars, suffering families here and in other countries, and we want to help.

However, sometimes those calling us are not respectable charities, they are just unscrupulous people looking for a way to take advantage of your goodwill.

Under FCC rules, telemarketers calling your home must provide their name along with the name, telephone number, and address where their employer or contractor can be contacted. Telemarketing calls to your home are prohibited before 8 am or after 9 pm, and telemarketers are required to comply immediately with any do-not-call request you make during a call.

Again, go back and check the charity online; look for their website. Contribute through a valid website, don’t ever offer your credit card or bank information to someone calling you. It is much safer to donate online.

Use this link to verify that a charity is valid and registered in the state.


 Other ways to protect yourself now and in the future:

To block telemarketing calls, register your number on the Do Not Call List. Legitimate telemarketers consult the list to avoid calling both landline and wireless phone numbers on the list. Visit Or call toll-free from the phone you want to register: 1-888-382-1222. Please note that you must call from the phone number that you want to register.

Scammers can use the internet to make calls from all over the world. They don’t care if you’re on the National Do Not Call Registry. That’s why your best defense against unwanted calls is call blocking. Which type of call-blocking or call-labeling technology you use will depend on the phone — whether it’s a cell phone, a traditional landline, or a home phone that makes calls over the internet (VoIP). See what services your phone carrier offers and look online for expert reviews. For cell phones, you also can check out the reviews for different call-blocking apps in your online app store.

And remember the most important way to avoid scams is to share information with family and friends.

Pass it On!


This article was written by Catherine Blinder, chief education, and outreach officer of the Department of Consumer Protection of the State of Connecticut. To learn more about how the Department of Consumer Protection can help, visit us at