AUSTIN, Texas — Holiday goodwill doesn’t extend to scammers, but experts say peace of mind is possible with common sense strategies to avoid schemes that steal your joy and your money.
Successful scammers spend a whole year coming up with new strategies and methods to bilk consumers buying gifts for family and friends.
Beverly Gor, executive council volunteer for AARP Texas, said if your plan is to buy gift cards from a big-box store, make sure they have not been stripped of their value prior to purchase.
“There are some criminals who know how to drain your gift card of its value, and our survey found that 21% of U.S. adults gave or received a gift card with no value on it,” Gor reported.
If you fall victim to a scam, Gor said you should immediately contact the store or law enforcement.
Gor recently heard from an elderly woman who stopped just short of giving private information over the phone after the caller claimed she owed money and seemed like an authority because she knew her address, the value of her home and other information easily gleaned from the internet.
“They knew things about her that led her to believe that they were a legitimate caller,” Gor explained. “A lot of those things are on the county tax rolls, so anybody can go there. They can figure out things about you and make it sound like they’re sincere.”
When it comes to charity donations, Gor recommended to make sure it is the correct website before entering credit card information, because scammers are known to use lookalike names.
“People putting up what they call “clone” websites,” Gor pointed out. “It would trick people, deceive people into clicking on something, and they will go to a fraudulent site and give information.”
The AARP survey found nearly 40% of Americans received requests from charities that felt fake or fraudulent.