There's no shortage of scams this holiday season
December 1, 2021 | View PDF
Most holiday scams are just variations on scams we see year-round, but scammers will ramp up their efforts and tailor their fraud to holiday activities during this time of year.
Scammers target shoppers looking for bargains by creating fake websites (spoofing) and social media ads impersonating major retailers and brands. These sites will advertise products at bargain prices. You will never receive these products and in the meantime, the scammers now have your credit card information.
To avoid these scams, look for too-good-to-be-true pricing on products you want buy. Watch for spelling and grammar errors on the website. If the company is unfamiliar, check to see if there is a real street address and an actual office. Is there only a fill-in form for contact with only an 800-number phone number? Does the website include their privacy, returns and refund policies? Type the name of the company +reviews or +scam into your browser and read what comes up. Also, it’s best to not click on ads that pop up on your social media (click-baiting). If you are interested in a product, go directly to a known website to view.
We’ve always advised in the past to make sure the website has the “https” and lock icon before putting in your personal and credit card information, to insure an encrypted website. But scammers have caught on and now use this technology. Really do your research before buying from an unknown company.
Always pay by credit card so you can dispute any fraudulent charges. Never use a debit card, wire transfer, gift or prepaid card. It’s the same as cash and the money will be gone if it turns out to be a fraudulent transaction.
Scammers will ramp up their fraudulent phishing emails (fake shipping notices, notifications of missed deliveries) during the holiday season, spoofing known delivery services such as the US. Postal Service, UPS or FedEx. You may be expecting packages, but these shipping companies normally will not be sending you emails. The links in the phishing email can infect your computer with malware or send you to a form asking for personal information. Ignore these emails – you can research shipping information yourself by going directly to the carrier’s website and checking the status of your packages.
And then there are the porch pirates who steal your packages after they arrive at your home. In most cases, these crimes happen during daylight hours, with packages visible from the street. If you are not home during the day, arrange to have packages delivered to your work address or to a friend or neighbor who will be home. Or have the package delivered to a hub locker, a local retail location, or the nearby office of the shipper or postal office.
Track your packages so you know when delivery will be. If you have a door camera, you can see when the package was delivered and have it picked up immediately. You can also request that your package be delivered with a signature required.
These scams increase during the holidays just as charitable giving increases. Watch for fake websites touting “look-alike” charities that imitate well-known charity names. Never respond to any unsolicited phone calls asking for donations. And never give out personal or financial information on the phone. Just hang up. You can verify the legitimacy of a charity at Charity Navigator or Give.org.
We want you to be safe this holiday season. AARP’s Fraud Watch Network at http://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/ can help you spot and avoid scams. Sign up for free Watchdog Alerts, review our scam-tracking map, or call our toll-free fraud helpline at 877-908-3360 if you or a loved one suspect you’ve been a victim.
Michelle Tabler volunteers with the Alaska Fraud Watch Network, as part of AARP Alaska.