During the holidays most people make an extra effort to be friendly and embrace the spirit of the season. Unfortunately, scam artists make a point of using the holiday spirit to target people – and these predators frequently target the elderly. Below we’ll explain how seniors can avoid becoming the victim of a holiday scam.
Why Are Seniors Common Targets of Holiday Scams?
There are several reasons why scam artists are more active during the holidays. First, it is the busiest shopping season of the year. For a fraudster or scam artist that means there is more money available to steal or swindle. Second, most of us pay less attention to our bank accounts and credit card statements during the holidays, instead preferring to deal with the damage after the holidays are over. Finally, seniors are often targeted because they are more trusting, less technologically savvy, and often have more money to spend.
How to Avoid Holiday Scams
Recognizing some of the common scams helps you to avoid falling victim to them. For example, the following are common holidays scams:
- Gift Card Scam. Gift cards are everyone’s “go to” holiday gift when you don’t know what to buy someone or you wait until the very last minute. As a result, we all seem to get at least one gift card we will never use. Consequently, selling unwanted gift cards online has become big business. Scammers, however, will ask you to “verify the balance” on a three-way call. What they are really doing is recording the sound of your keystrokes so they can figure out your login information for the card. With that, they can use the card online without paying a penny for it. To prevent falling for this scam, never agree to a phone call with a buyer. In fact, the best way to sell unwanted gift cards is to go through legitimate gift card sites such as Gift Card Granny or Raise.
- Fake Charities. The bogus charity scam is hardly a new one; however, with the advent of the internet scam artists have found new ways to solicit money for their bake causes. Crowdfunding sites such as GoFundMe are legitimately used to help raise money for people in need, but they can also be used to solicit money for less than needy causes. To prevent falling victim to this scam, never give money to crowdfunding sites unless you personally know the person running the funding campaign. In addition, always vet a charity by checking with organizations such as Charity Watch or Charity Navigator before deciding to donate.
- Fake Notifications. This scam involves a victim receiving what appears to be a legitimate notification in the mailbox or via email indicating that a delivery attempt was made. The victim is instructed to call a number at which time the victim is asked to provide a credit card number or social security number to verify the delivery. That information is then stolen and used to commit identity fraud. To avoid becoming a victim of this scam, do some research before you pick up the phone and call. All major delivery services (USPS, FedEx, UPS) have websites that allow you to track a package. If the tracking number provided on the “notice” doesn’t work, it’s probably bogus. If you are still unsure, call the number listed on the official website instead of the one on the notice you received.
- Fake Websites. Another way that the internet can be used to defraud unsuspecting victims is by sending you to copycat or phony websites. You click on an advertisement or a link in an article, thinking you are being taken to a legitimate website, only to end up on a copycat site. Many of these copycat sites look legitimate, causing shoppers to place orders. The shopper either never receives the merchandise or receives cheap knockoffs of what they thought they ordered. To avoid this scam, pay very close attention to both the URL and the website itself. Look for misspelled words or other errors on a website. Often, the site just feels “off.” Pay attention that feeling. Also look for extra words in the URL, such as “Amazonshopping.com.” If you have any doubt, back out and type the address to the site directly into your browser.
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