Holiday Scams Hit Most Everyone
More than 75% of U.S. consumers reported that they have experienced some kind of fraud and a similar share of consumers failed a 9-question safe shopping quiz.
Holiday shopping, like most shopping these days, has moved online, and that poses unique risks, according to a new AARP survey. More than 75% of U.S. consumers reported that they have experienced some kind of fraud and a similar share of consumers failed a 9-question safe shopping quiz.
Here are some tips to avoiding scams this holiday season.
Gift Card Scams
Most US consumers will purchase a gift card for someone this holiday season. While these gifts are easy to give and popular to get, they are also open to fraud. A 2022 AARP survey found that one in four people have either given or received a gift card with no funds on it.
"If anyone asks you to pay a debt or obligation with a gift card, it’s a scam."
Your best bet may be to buy gift cards online directly from the issuer. Cards on store racks are easy prey for criminals, who can grab the cards, secretly record the numbers off the back and return the cards to the rack. That said, criminals are now using “bots” online to find activated gift cards with balances and stealing them that way. When you get a gift card, check the balance and take a picture of it, register it if you can, and use it sooner than later.
And remember, if anyone asks you to pay a debt or obligation with a gift card, it’s a scam.
Holiday Pet Scams
Who doesn’t want to give their loved ones that perfect holiday postcard moment? You know, the big box with a bow that has a furry new member of the family inside. Unfortunately, that desire to create a cherished memory of a holiday pet leads many to a scam they won’t soon forget.
Here are three ways you can avoid a pet scam this holiday season.
First, do your research and understand how much a certain breed costs. Don’t trust websites that offer deep discounts on the going rate. Second, use the photo of the pet you are offered to conduct a reverse image search online (search “how to do a reverse image search” in your favorite browser). Scammers copy pet photos from other websites. Lastly, if you can, shop local. Meeting the breeder in person or touring the facility lets you know it is legitimate. A seller that invents reasons why you can’t pick the pet up in person shouldn’t be trusted. (And consider adopting from a rescue, where many future beloved family members are waiting!)
Check In with Your Elders
Federal data suggest that losses from elder financial abuse perpetrated by a known person are greater than when fraud is perpetrated by anonymous scammers. Far too many families find out about financial abuse too late and regret not seeing the signs or asking more questions.
"Holiday gatherings also provide an opportunity to talk about financial exploitation with our loved ones and discuss what they can do or are doing to protect themselves and their money."
The holidays are a great time to reconnect with our loved ones. With older adults, sudden mood changes, either depression or excitement, could be signs that something is amiss. Holiday gatherings also provide an opportunity to talk about financial exploitation with our loved ones and discuss what they can do or are doing to protect themselves and their money. Above all, respect their right for your older loved ones to make their own decisions as they are cognitively able, but leave the lines of communication open.
Be a fraud fighter! If you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam.
The AARP Fraud Watch Network is a free resource for all. Learn how to proactively spot scams or get guidance if you’ve been targeted. Visit www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork or call our dedicated helpline to speak to a fraud specialist at 1-877-908-3360.
And make sure to tune into AARP Live on RFD-TV the third Thursday of every month for “Rural America Live – With AARP.”