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.
The AARP holiday scams survey also identified three specific threat areas: online shopping scams, gift cards with zero balances and stolen packages. Here are tips to avoid these specific scams this holiday season.
When shopping online, visit sites you know and trust, and avoid clicking on offers for deep discounts on hot items. The safest way to give a gift card is by purchasing it online through the retailer’s website. Avoid porch pirates by seeing if your packages can be held by the shipper in a nearby location, placed in a secure location on your property, or delivered to a UPS or Amazon drop box.
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.
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.
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.
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