While you’re busy making holiday plans, the crooks are making their wish list. If you know what these con artists are up to, it’s easier to spot scams rather than fall for them.

Unfortunately, seniors are a common target for fraudsters, especially during the holidays. Why? Seniors often have nest eggs, own their homes, excellent credit, and are trusting and polite by nature, as the FBI points out.  And, with more older adults alone and doing business online during the pandemic, the risk of falling victim to fraud is higher than usual.

Tis the Season for Cheaters. Avoid Being a Victim.

Holiday scams come in all shapes and sizes; empty gift cards, bogus charitable solicitations, cyberattacks, and thieves who steal packages from your porch. These “porch pirates” have are real-life Grinches this time of year.

An estimated 36% of Americans have had a package stolen from outside their home at least once. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, the U.S. Postal Service expects to ship more than 800 million parcels, and at least one of them is likely to be yours.

Be on the lookout for the gift card scam. According to a new AARP survey, more than 70% of Americans plan to buy gift cards this season. When asked, 1 in 5 said they’ve given or received a gift card with no money on it.

How does this happen? Thieves go after the cards in racks at the store. They get the account number and PIN — and when the card is activated, they are “pinged” and immediately drain the funds.

Illegitimate charities a favorite trap for posers.  According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), scammers may “impersonate charities to get money or private information from well-meaning consumers,” including setting up fake websites that mimic legitimate charities.

How do they get away with it? Only about half of U.S. adults conduct research before making a monetary donation to charitable causes or organizations. Of those who do check out a charity first, over half (54%) did not donate based on what they found on charity rating sites. 

Be wary of deals that are too good to be true and emails that want to know too much about you. Everyone loves to get a deal. But if little-known sites show unrealistic prices or claim to have products that other retails can’t keep in stock, think twice before parting with your money. 

Pay attention to shipping notifications. Many scammers use fake shipping notifications to get a hold of your information. It may come in the form of an email or a postcard left on your doorstep. Don’t download that malware-filled fake link, and don’t hand out personal information based on a letter attached to your door.

Keep tabs on your bank accounts. While you should regularly check your debit and credit card online accounts or statements for irregularities, it’s especially important to inspect them for unexpected purchases during the holidays. Report any problems immediately.

Also, keep in mind that it’s safer to pay with credit or debit cards instead of cash because cards provide you with consumer protections against fraud and other problems.

Protect Yourself With These Tips From the FBI

  • If you suspect a scam, immediately end all communication with the perpetrator.
  • Always get a tracking number for items purchased online so you can make sure they have been shipped and can follow the delivery process.

BE SUSPICIOUS

  • Be suspicious of sellers who post an auction or advertisement as if they reside in the U.S., then respond to questions by stating they are out of the country on business, family emergency, or similar reasons.
  • Avoid sellers who post an auction or advertisement under one name but ask that payment be sent to someone else.
  •  Consider canceling your purchase if a seller requests that funds be wired directly to them via a money transfer company, pre-paid card, or bank-to-bank wire transfer. Money sent in these ways is virtually impossible to recover. 

BE DILIGENT

  • Search online for the contact information (name, email, phone number, addresses) and the proposed offer. Other people have likely posted information online about individuals and businesses trying to run scams.
  • Resist the pressure to act quickly. Scammers purposely create a sense of urgency to lure victims into immediate action. Call the police if you feel there is a danger to yourself or a loved one.
  • Be cautious of unsolicited phone calls, mailings, and door-to-door services offers.

DO NOT GIVE YOUR INFORMATION FREELY

  • Never give or send any personally identifiable information, money, jewelry, gift cards, checks, or wire information to unverified people or businesses.
  • Make sure all of your computer anti-virus and security software and malware protections are up to date. 
  • Disconnect from the internet and shut down your device if you see a pop-up message or locked screen. Pop-ups are regularly used by perpetrators to spread malicious software. Set up pop-up blockers to avoid accidentally clicking on a pop-up.
  • Be careful about what you download. Never open an email attachment from someone you don’t know, and be wary of email attachments forwarded to you.

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