Why Mother's Day is a lucrative target for crooks: Internet Scambusters #438
Mother's Day: it's a time for some to celebrate and show appreciation and respect. For Moms, perhaps it's a time to relax and be pampered -- if you're lucky!
But Mother's Day is also a source of interesting myths and urban legends, as well as a few cruel scams aimed at collecting on the $14 billion we spent on gifts at this time of year.
In this week's issue, we bring you some of those stories and highlight the main scams to be on the look-out for.
Let's check out today's...
8 Mother's Day Scams and Urban Legends
After Thanksgiving and Christmas, Mother's Day is the biggest-spending special occasion of the year, with grateful children and husbands forking out around $14 billion on flowers, chocolates and other treats.
No wonder then, that Mother's Day is also a favorite target for scammers.
The celebration of the role of mothers actually has been around since the times of the ancient Greeks and Romans, and perhaps even longer.
In more recent historical times, it emerged as Mothering Sunday in Britain in the early 17th Century, as a day in March on which young servants were permitted to leave their employers for one single day to visit with their mothers.
Mother's Day is still typically celebrated in March in Britain (though this year, unusually, it actually fell in April). And it's held on various other dates around the world, though the second Sunday in May remains the most common date.
Mother's Day Hoaxes, Myths and Urban Legends
In the US, Mother's Day became an official holiday in 1914, seven years after a drive launched by Anna Jarvis of Philadelphia as a tribute to her peace-campaigning mother.
An earlier attempt to introduce it, in 1908, was defeated in the Senate, but the celebration of motherhood had been marked in many churches around the US for several decades before that.
Those are the facts, but inevitably a whole crop of myths and legends has also grown up around Mother's Day. For instance:
- The United Nations wants to ban Mother's Day because they consider it sexist.This isn't true, but the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) did issue a statement in 2000 saying it opposed the continuance of "sex-role stereotypes and... the reintroduction of such symbols as a Mothers' Day and a Mothers' Award, which it sees as encouraging women's traditional roles."However, the organization later said it meant to refer only to the east European country of Belarus' version of Mother's Day, which, it said, reinforced those stereotypes.
- The world's youngest mother, aged five, gave birth to a son on Mother's Day.Sadly, this one is true. One dreads to think of the circumstances behind this story, but documentation supports the tale of this youngster in Peru, who gave birth to a boy in 1939.According to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, which has a full report, the woman is still alive and lives in Peru's capital, Lima.
- The name of the flower we know as forget-me-nots was said to have been invented by a young Mom who gave some of the flower's seeds to her young sons to plant, knowing they would bloom in springtime to remind the boys that Mother's Day was approaching.There's no evidence at all to stand up this urban legend. And, believe us, there are some much more dramatic contenders, like the story of the knight-in-armor who fell into a river as he plucked flowers for his sweetheart, calling out "Forget Me Not" as he hurled the flowers to her and sank into his watery grave, weighed down by his armor!
- Suicide rates peak on Mother's Day. Not true, although the months of April, May and June are the highest for suicides.Several urban legends claim holidays, especially Valentine's Day, are marked by exceptionally high suicide numbers but statistics don't support this.
- The chapstick-and-the cat hoax email. This lengthy email is still doing the rounds apparently without any evidence of its truth.We'll spare you the details but it involves a youngster allegedly found applying chapstick to the derriere of the family cat, as the group was preparing to leave for a church Mother's Day service.The supposedly "funny" part was Mom's consternation at not knowing how many previous times the little'un had done this, using her personal chapstick!
Mother's Day Scams
On a more serious note, here are the three big scams to be on the alert for this Mother's Day.
- Fresh flowers every month. Flower sales peak on Mother's Day and what better idea than a gift that keeps on giving? Or so it seems.This scam involves online and door-to-door sales of coupons you give to your mom that supposedly entitle her to a flower delivery every month.Sadly, they're probably worthless -- unless you bought them from a reliable florist you know, and we actually haven't come across any florist currently doing this.
- Other bogus sales. Basically, buying gifts from people or organizations you don't know or haven't thoroughly checked out runs the risk of a scam.This might be just a ruse to relieve you of your gift money, but if you pay by credit card there's the additional risk of identity theft -- that your card number will be used by a crook to make purchases
- Ecard malware. This happens all year round but especially on holidays and other celebratory occasions.Mom receives an email notification of a supposed greeting card that is accessible via a link.If it's a scam, the "card" or the link installs malware on the victim's PC.Of course, there are several perfectly legitimate ecard companies out there, but it's wise to warn Mom of the risks.
Best thing to do is for her to check with the alleged sender first before trying to open it or follow a link.
For more on ecard scams, check out these earlier Scambusters reports.
Are Ecards Safe?
Ecard Scams: Greetings! A Scammer Has Sent You an Ecard!
Gosh, we just realized that all this makes Mother's Day sound like a worrisome time. Well, we certainly don't want that. It should be a day of celebration and happy memories.
So let's finish on a high note, with this Mother's Day quotation from George Washington: "My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her."
To all Moms around the world, we say: Happy Mother's Day!
That's all for today -- we'll see you next week.