Scams separate millions of Americans from their money this time of year, and experts have some tips on how to avoid being defrauded.
One of the biggest holiday-season scams involves gift cards, where someone has scratched off the back to reveal the code, often replacing it with a small sticker. Once you buy it, they drain the card almost instantly.
Strat Maloma, associate state director for AARP California, advised people to buy gift cards online, or at least to pay attention to where they are sold in the store.
“Try to buy gift cards that are behind the counter,” Maloma recommended. “Avoid the ones that anybody who walks into the store can pick up.”
Another common scam involves fake charities, or groups spending up to 90% of their donation on so-called “administrative costs.”
You can research groups you are considering on websites such as Give.org, charitywatch.org or charitynavigator.org. There are also great tips on AARP’s FraudWatch Network site, and you can get tips or file a complaint on the Federal Trade Commission’s website.
Maloma also pointed out for online shopping, you must go directly to the seller’s website. Do not click on a link in a marketing email, text or social-media post.
“You enter it several times find it is not taking you to the link,” Maloma outlined. “What the scammer is doing, they’re getting your personal information with allows them to shop in your name or take over your account. ”
In addition, experts warn against the legion of porch pirates who roam neighborhoods looking for packages to steal. FBI data showed last year during the holidays, consumers filed 17,000 complaints about undelivered packages worth $53 million.