December Fraud Watch Alert: Holiday Frauds and Scams

December Fraud Watch Alert: Holiday Frauds and Scams

According to the AARP Fraud Watch Network, "'Tis the season to be wary." Holiday shoppers open their wallets to spend more money and con artists try to find a way to take it. The following are ways to protect yourself and your family from three seasonal scams.

Holiday Charity Frauds

Beware of charities that don't or won't provide key information in writing. Con artists pose as agents for police, fire departments and others to get your credit card data or cash. To learn how to spot charity scams, visit ftc.gov/charityfraud.

Gift Card Scams

Crooks grab gift cards from a rack and quickly write down or scan the cards' serial numbers. A few days later they call the gift card phone number to find out how much money is on the card. When the card reaches the gift recipient, the balance has been spent.

Steer clear from the display racks and purchase gift cards from a customer service person, directly from the store issuing the gift card or from a secure retailer's website.

Fake Shopping Networks

Watch out for fake online shopping sites that mimic legitimate businesses by using a similar web name or URL. Look for 'https' in the prefix of the web address, which signifies a secure web page, you can then click on the 'lock icon' in the status bar of your browser to view the site's security details. Be suspicious if the only payment method offered is by wiring your payment or using a debit card. If you pay this way it is nearly impossible to get your money back. Check the refund policy.

If you think you have provided your financial details or sent money to a scammer, contact your financial institution immediately.

Here are some additional ways to protect yourself and loved ones from online or offline identity theft and fraud.  

  • Avoid easy PINS or passwords. That means no family birth dates or names, no Social Security numbers and no consecutive numbers like 1, 2, 3.
  • Beware of emails that claim to come from your bank or internet service provider asking you to confirm your personal information or account number. Forward suspicious emails to the Federal Trade Commission at spam@uce.gov
  • Call I-888-5-opt-out or visit optoutprescreen.com to stop pre-approved credit card applications that a thief could steal and use to get credit in your name.
  • Never give personal information to telemarketers. To cut down on unwanted telemarketing calls, sign up for the Do Not Call Registry at donotcall.gov or call 888-382-1222.
  • Double-check references for door-to-door sales, home repair offers and other products. Verify that businesses and others who contact you are who they claim to be before you provide any personal information.

You can get the latest information about ID theft and fraud to safeguard your personal information and your pocketbook by contacting the AARP Fraud Watch Network or call the AARP Foundation Fraud Fighter Center at 877-908-3360 for help.