Holiday season is the time of the year that brings lots of joy and happiness. On the other hand, along with cheer in the air, there are plenty of opportunities for festivities to be ruined by those who seek to scam holiday shoppers.
During the holidays, scammers are one of the main culprits who cannot only steal people’s joy but their hard-earned cash, too. That’s why it’s important for us to not get caught slippin’ and fall victim to any of the various scams that happen during the holiday season. With enough caution, preparation and attentiveness, the threat of being scammed is less likely to occur.
AARP’s Fraud Watch Network revealed that holiday season scams can come in all forms including phishing scams, data theft, fake retail Gift cards scams, false donations, fake charities scams, fake “letters from Santa” for children, survey swindles and app traps.
All communities face various frauds and scams --The Federal Trade Commission’s last survey on fraud in the United States revealed that 25.6 million American adults had been affected by fraud. However, the survey also stated that African-American and Latino consumers were more likely to become fraud victims than non-Hispanic whites. In fact, recent FTC data revealed that “17.3 percent of African-Americans and 13.4 percent of Hispanics were victims of fraud, compared to 9.0 percent for non-Hispanic whites.”
Romaine Lennon, 28, from Hyattsville, Maryland, unfortunately, experienced the effect of not only one, but three scams in a year.Lennon shared with Blavity that his bank card information was compromised after making online purchases two years ago.
“The first time it was like okay, you know things happen,” Lennon said. “I didn’t think too much of it and I ordered a cheap USB. The second time I needed a back panel for my phone…then it happened again and I was like ‘OK, this is ridiculous.’”After he realized that people were taking money out of his account by using his card information, he immediately contacted the bank and asked for his card to be shut down. Lennon spoke to the employees at his bank, and after they asked a series of questions, he filled out an official report. He has also opted to avoid purchases from the same website since the incidents occurred.
Lennon also had to make sure that they would be able to reimburse his money. At certain times, he had to wait up to 10 days for it to be returned to him.
Photo: AARPAlthough Lennon reported the scams promptly, sadly many individuals do not take the same measures when they become victims of fraud.
According to data from the FTC’s complaint system, the Consumer Sentinel Network, the number of times African-American and Hispanic communities report of fraud to the FTC is low compared to white communities, even though they experience it at higher rates.So, what can you do to avoid fraud this holiday season? AARP’s Fraud Watch Network, AARP’s fraud prevention and education resource, advises that vigilance against scammers is our number one weapon. By taking a few practical steps, you have the power to protect yourself and your family and stop fraud before it happens. They’ve got you covered with these holiday fraud-fighting tips:
Package Delivery Scams:
Thieves send fake emails from delivery services about a package being held for pending delivery. The email directs you to click on a link that asks for your credit card or other personal information. To combat fraud, closely review the email by checking the sender information, looking for misspellings and hover over the link with your mouse to see if it is really taking you to the delivery service’s authentic website. Also, request signatures for deliveries to stop thieves from stealing packages from doorsteps.
“Too-good-to-be-true” Online Deals:
Online ads, promotional emails and social media posts from people you seemingly know of a good online deal could be a scam. You might get nothing for your money or a fake item, and your credit card number could be compromised during the transaction. A too-good-to-be-true deal should send up a red flag.
Public Wi-Fi Risks:
Making purchases online while on public Wi-Fi is dangerous. Only shop on public Wi-Fi if you have a Virtual Private Network or a HotSpot on your mobile device and it is turned on. When you do shop online, stick with credit cards. You are liable for only up to fifty dollars of fraudulent use, but your financial loss with a stolen debit card could be much higher.
Gift Cards Scams:
Thieves can hit store gift card racks, scan the numbers off of the cards, then check online or call the toll-free number to see if someone has bought and activated the cards. As soon as a card is active, the scammers drain the funds. By the time your gift recipient tries to use the card, the money is long gone. Safely purchase gift cards directly from the store clerk or buy them online. If purchasing gift cards in-store purchase cards from behind the counter and inspect the packaging to make sure it has not been tampered with
Legitimate charities make a big push at year-end for last-minute annual donations. Scammers know this and make their own end-of-year push to line their own pockets. Check the charity before donating at charitynavigator.org or give.org, and make sure your donation is going to the charities that really are using your money for good.
Santa Claus Letter Scams:
There are retailers who legitimately sell “letters from Santa” that are sent to your grandchildren or children. But, some are the work of identity thieves. Be wary of any Santa letter retailer asking for personal information about the child like their date and place of birth or Social Security number.
Do you believe you can spot a scam? Take AARP’s Holiday Scams Quiz here. To learn more about additional information and ways to avoid scams during the holiday, check out AARP’s article on how to avoid scams this holiday season.
This piece is brought to you by AARP.