Q: The holiday season is upon us, which unfortunately often means that scammers are out in full force. Do you have any tips to avoid being taken advantage of?
A: The irony of the season is that among the goodwill, gifts, and parties, there is an opportunity for scammers to take advantage of the generosity of the community. I have a few things to look out for.

First, the old adage “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is” is a true one. Don’t let your wish to save a few dollars cost you more in the long run. Be skeptical and do your due diligence with things like online shopping and donation solicitations. If you are buying online, shop at legitimate retailers with secure websites. For donation solicitations, be wary of phone calls asking for money for seemingly good causes. Call local organizations like the VFW to determine if they are truly behind the phone call asking for money to fund a veteran’s Christmas dinner.

Parents, look out for your children who are susceptible to scams with their online presence. Make sure they know that if they are meeting someone they don’t know to do a transaction, such as from Craigslist, to meet someplace safe, like at the sheriff’s department or police department parking lot. Take some time to educate your kids and instill in them the patience to do their own due diligence so they don’t get ripped off. 

Q: Do you have any other holiday season tips?
A: I’d like to also stress to people to enjoy their time with family and to enjoy food and alcohol responsibly. Don’t over indulge and if you do, there are many options to get home safely including Uber, Lyft and taxis. Or just stay at the location of the party. 

Finally, what with people visiting, family decisions as to where to spend the holidays and potential financial burdens due to the time of the year, there is a lot of family stress. Unfortunately, we see domestic violence cases increase at this time of the year. If you are in a domestic violence situation, in St. Johns County, the Betty Griffin House offers counseling, emergency shelter and relocation. EPIC Community Services also offers family, alcohol and substance abuse counseling. These are all available for anyone to use — and please do, so you don’t need to have contact with law enforcement or the State Attorney’s office.

I’d like to wish everyone in our community peace, love and joy over the Holiday Season.

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