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Scams and Theft Increase During Holiday Season

"We can't control the criminal's desire to commit a crime, we can't control their ability however we can control the opportunities to make us crime victims so taking steps to less the opportunities or lessen their likelihood," said Carly Hose, Washington County Sheriff's Office.

HAGERSTOWN, Md. - During the holiday season, law enforcement officials say more people are shopping and are at risk for holiday scams and they can happen when we least expect it -- both online and in person.

"We do our shopping and so do the criminals," said Carly Hose, deputy first class for the Washington County Sheriff's Office. 

Police say with more people shopping, they're more at risk for thefts and scams that can happen in person or online.

"We call it double swiping where you hand your credit card to the cashier, they'll make the swipe for the legitimate purchase to place that item on your credit card but they also have a credit card reader out of sight that they'll swipe too. So your information has been downloaded on to that. They can simply take it to a computer plug it in, upload your credit card information and either use it or sell it," said Hose. 

Government officials say one simple way to determine if you're using a legitimate website is to look for the 's' URL's beginning with "https" are safe because that 's' stands for secure.

"If websites are not offering to, to collect sales taxes in states where you know that it's due that's another issue. Also you want to make sure you're looking, at sites that have the appropriate logo, trademark brands, so you know you're on an appropriate site," said Brian Noyes, Executive Director for the Global Intellectual Property Center at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C. 

Experts also say trust your instincts, if it's too good to be true, it probably is.

"If people find these things that are, find these problems that they report these sites to the government," said Noyes. 

Officers say paying attention to your surroundings and making yourself a harder target can help you avoid scams and theft.

"We can't control the criminal's desire to commit a crime, we can't control their ability however we can control the opportunities to make us crime victims so taking steps to less the opportunities or lessen their likelihood," said Hose. 

For more information about how to report online and other holiday scams, head to these websites: http://www.theglobalipcenter.com/ or http://www.saferproducts.gov/

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