By Mike Festa
State Director, AARP Massachusetts
Did you know that someone’s identity gets stolen every two seconds? The AARP Fraud Watch Network provides you with tips and resources to help you spot and avoid identity theft and fraud so you can protect yourself and your family. Our watchdog alerts will keep you up to date on con artists’ latest tricks. It’s free of charge for everyone: AARP members, non-members, and people of all ages.
Here are several things to think about as we approach the holiday season. The best defense against fraud is an educated consumer, so please watch out for these scams:
- Scam artists set up fake websites offering anything you could want to buy as gifts around the holidays, at prices that are too-good-to-be-true. And guess what? They are! You’ll never receive the gift you thought you bought, and the scammers could turn around and use your credit card information for their own purchases. Stick to well-known shopping sites, and always type in the web address, rather than clicking from a link to the retailer.
- Protect your holiday packages from theft. Some 23 million recipients per year report packages stolen from their doorsteps. To reduce the risk, arrange for a delivery that requires a signature upon receipt. Other options: send gifts to the recipient’s workplace or have them delivered to a pickup location operated by the carrier.
- Are you buying gift cards this holiday season? Consider this. Thieves hit store gift card racks, secretly write down or scan the numbers off the cards, then check online or call the toll-free number to see if someone has bought the cards and activated them. As soon as a card is active, the scammers drain the funds. By the time your gift recipient tries to use the card, the money is long gone. To prevent con artists from ripping you off when buying a gift card, get the card from the retailer’s website or from the store issuing it.
- Leave the debit card at home as you head out for last-minute holiday shopping. Consumer protection experts recommend using credit cards to protect against fraud and theft. With credit cards, you are liable for only up to $50 of fraudulent use, and most credit card companies will waive this fee. In the case of a lost or stolen debit card, financial losses to the consumer can be much more significant. Call your bank for details.
- With the time for year-end tax write-offs approaching, the season of giving is ripe with bogus charities — especially for hot-button causes claiming to benefit police and firefighters, military veterans, sick or needy children, or victims of natural disasters. Ignore all email solicitations unless you previously donated to the particular cause. Unless you dialed the call, don’t provide a credit card number over the phone. And before donating, verify an organization’s legitimacy at Charity Navigator or Give.org.
Report scams to local law enforcement. Contact the AARP Fraud Watch Network at 877-908-3360 or online at www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork for more information on fraud prevention.
Mike Festa is the state director for AARP Massachusetts. Archives of articles from previous issues can be read at www.fiftyplusadvocate.com.
Archives of articles from previous issues can be read at www.fiftyplusadvocate.com