The holiday season is the most joyful time of the year and communities love coming together to enjoy the festive lights, shopping and gift-giving.
However, it only takes a moment for all the joy to dissipate when a fraudulent incident occurs. Sadly, this time of year there are an excessive amount of holiday scams. The authorities say the fraudsters are good at what they do. This time of year, they are working overtime to scam and steal from our elderly citizens.
Scams are at a record high and fraudsters are using fraudulent or deceptive tactics during the holidays to get older Americans to part with their money. The FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) reported losses in 2021 for non-delivery or non-payment scams costing victims 337 million and another $173 million for credit card fraud. The IC3 receives a vast number of complaints during the first three months of the year suggesting previous holiday season scams.
There are countless scams that the bad actors capitalize on, but these 4 seem to be used more often by the scam artists taking advantage of their victim’s generous spirits:
Package delivery scams- since COVID 19, many consumers have drastically changed their shopping habits by moving away from the brick and mortar shopping to online purchases. With those changes, package deliveries have increased exponentially creating more opportunities for scams. According to the Better Business Bureau, many home delivery scams begin with the fraudster sending a text or email. Typically, the message will include a link to click on to update the delivery or preference of payment. These messages appear extremely legitimate, but do not click on a link of an unexpected delivery. To prevent being scammed, call the delivery service directly or log into their website and use the tracking number provided.
Gift card scam- a gift card is supposed to be a gift and not used for payment. Anytime someone calls and urges payment by gift card, that is usually a scam artist. Fraudsters love to use gift cards since they are easy to buy and have fewer protections. According to the FTC, ordinarily the caller creates a sense of urgency by saying you must pay now or something drastic may occur. By using scare tactics and undue influence, oftentimes the victim gives in. Don’t do it. Additionally, the criminal will encourage the victim to go to a retail store like Walmart, Target, or Walgreens to put money on a gift card. If this happens, it is a fraud being cooked up. Finally, if the caller asks for the gift card number or PIN, it is a scam and you won’t get your money back.
Charity scams- charities are doing extraordinary work, but before making plans to contribute your hard hard dollars, do your research and homework. In a 2019, American Senior Alliance blog post provided three excellent tips that still apply today. First, do your research online. By typing in the name of the charity in your browser, followed up with the word “complaint” or “scam”, you would be amazed how much you can find out. Second, it is a good idea to pay with a credit card or check, so you have good records of the transaction. It is not a good idea to pay with cash, gift cards or wire money. Third, take your time. Fraudsters always try to rush the process along by using their crafty tactics, but take your time.
Online shopping scams- regardless if you are buying jewelry, clothing, equipment or household items, be smart and guard personal and financial information. Wells Fargo offers these tips when purchasing online:
- Only shop at secure websites with good reputations
- Don’t shop using public wi-fi connections
- Be cautious of deals that appear too good to be true
- Steer clear of sellers using high-pressure tactics
- Be careful of any social media site that takes you to an unfamiliar shopping site
- Use credit cards instead of debit cards, prepaid cards, or wire transfers
- Never give out personal information such as your bank information or social security number
- If the transaction doesn’t appear right, walk away
If you believe you have been scammed:
- Contact your credit card company or financial institution immediately
- Contact local law enforcement
- Report the fraud to the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
- Remember, most credit card companies have policies in place preventing customers for having to pay from unauthorized charges.
Ways to protect yourself:
- Be vigilant of scams and those seeking to steal financial information, especially during the holiday season
- Don’t click on suspicious links or attachments in emails, websites, or social media
- Be smart with your personal information, name, passwords, and financial information
- If asked to update personal information, look up the company and call them or enter the information on their website.