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Watch out for holiday shopping scams

Fraud Person at ComputerScammers use a number of tactics to steal during the holidays, ranging from online shopping scams, to scams involving the draining of gift cards, to package and shipping scams.

Seventy-five percent of consumers have been targeted or experienced at least one form of fraud that can be tied to the holidays, according to an AARP survey

It found many consumers may be at risk this holiday season from scams. To avoid them: 

  • Use credit cards instead of debit cards: Nearly 70 percent of U.S adults will use their debit cards this holiday season, but debit cards don’t offer the same protections as a credit card. Tip: Use a credit card for online purchases for better protections in case of a fraud.
  • Skip the gift card racks: Two-thirds of U.S. adults plan to purchase gift cards as a holiday gift. Buying them off the rack at grocery stores and pharmacies is most common, but gift cards on store racks are also a known target for scammers. Tip: Visit the retailer’s website and purchase the card online. If you buy from a store, check cards carefully for tampering, and keep all activation and purchase receipts.
  • Watch the apps: Nearly half of U.S. adults intend to use peer-to-peer apps such as Venmo, Zelle, or Cash App to send money, and 69 percent of peer-to-peer users have sent money to someone they didn’t know well. Tip: Use peer-to-peer apps only with friends and relatives. 
  • Avoid package delivery scams: More than half U.S. adults said they’re planning to ship gifts to friends or family over the holidays. Packages on front porches are a common target for thieves, with one in four adults reporting they lost a package from home delivery. In addition, scammers send fake shipping notifications about an issue to get consumers to disclose payment or sensitive personal information. More than a third of adults reported receiving fake carrier notifications. Tip: Ask shippers if packages can be held at their location for pickup or have them delivered to a place out of view. If you haven’t placed an order or a shipping notification requests urgent demands for payment or personal information, ignore it.
  • Be careful online: Three quarters of adults surveyed said they plan to shop online for the holidays. Tip: Be aware of red flags before logging in. More than a third of U.S. adults reported they experienced fraud when buying a product through an online advertisement. Some online advertisements can download malicious software onto devices or lead the shopper to a cloned site of a legitimate store.

Give, but give wisely

Many charities raise a significant portion of their funds at the end of the year, so scammers are lurking to get in on the action. Americans contributed more than $471 billion to charities last year.

To avoid giving to a sham charity – or to avoid giving through a fundraiser that keeps much of what they raise – do research on the charity before giving.

This can be done by giving through organizations, such as give.org, charitywatch.org, or charitynavigator.org. They give a summary of the charities’ work and rate them.

In addition to making end-of-year donations, make a list of what you’d like to support in 2022. That way, you can decline donating when you’re called by saying you’ve already made your giving decisions.

See information on these and other holiday scams on AARP’s website at www.aarp.org/holidayscams.

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