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AARP Warns of Scams Targeting Shoppers During the Holidays

As shoppers head online to shop, scammers target with fake online ads and customer service schemes

A new AARP Fraud Watch Network report is alerting consumers of scams they could encounter over the holidays. Of those surveyed, 75% percent reported they have been targeted or experienced at least one form of fraud that can be tied to the holidays.

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“Scammers are out in force during the holidays to try to steal money or sensitive information from consumers,” said Kathy Stokes, AARP director of fraud prevention programs. “Online shopping, shipping gifts and even charitable donations can become tools for scammers to use in their schemes. Knowing the warning signs is the first step you can take to spot and avoid scams.”

Three quarters of adults surveyed said they plan on shopping online for the holidays, but consumers need to know the red flags before logging in. Over a third of adults reported they experienced fraud when buying a product through an online advertisement. Some online advertisements can download malicious software onto devices or lead the shopper to a cloned site of a legitimate store.

Scams can also occur when shoppers search online for customer service contact information. Nearly half of adults surveyed believe the customer support number found at the top of an online search can be trusted. Online ads that appear to be a legitimate company’s customer service information can be a scammer’s attempt to get consumers to call them instead. Use a billing statement or other information obtained directly from the company to find legitimate numbers. Also, a retailer will never ask for your log-in information when providing customer support.

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Over half of adults said they are planning to ship gifts to friends or family over the holidays. Packages on front porches are a common target for thieves, with one in four adults reporting they lost a package in this way. Additionally, scammers send fake shipping notifications about an issue to get consumers to disclose payment or sensitive personal information. More than a third of adults reported receiving fake carrier notifications.

The survey outlined payment options that could leave consumers with little or no fraud protection. Peer-to-peer apps like Cash App, Zelle and Venmo are gaining popularity with 45% of adults reporting they plan to use one this holiday season, but they do not offer fraud protection. Avoid using these apps to make purchases from people or businesses you do not know.

Nearly 70% of Americans will use their debit cards this holiday season, but debit cards do not offer the same protections as a credit card. The report recommends using a credit card for online purchases for better protections in the event of a fraud.

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