Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
’Tis the season of giving. But for scammers, the Christmas holidays are a prime season for taking.
Con artists don’t stop stealing, not even for Christmas, so you need to be vigilant to protect yourself and your family from fraud.
Many holiday scams involve bogus websites or, increasingly, mobile apps. Sometimes the scams spread on Facebook and other social media. Online ads, emails and social media posts of impossibly good online deals, even from people you know, could be scams. You might get nothing for your money or an inferior item and your credit card number could be compromised during the transaction. A too-good-to-be-true deal should send up a red flag.
AARP recently conducted a national survey on holiday frauds that included a quiz on common holiday scams. About one in six adults failed the quiz, indicating that there is still a need to educate people about common holiday scams.
More than 70 percent of adults plan to buy gift cards to give as presents. However, nearly one in five adults said they had previously given or received a gift card that had no funds on it. This happens because thieves can hit store gift card racks, scan the numbers off the cards, then check online or call the toll-free number to see if someone has bought and activated the cards. As soon as a card is active, the scammers drain the funds. To avoid this, purchase gift cards directly from a store clerk or buy them online directly from the retailer.
The survey also found that about half of all adults say that packages are left outside of their home without requiring a signature, potentially leaving them vulnerable to theft.
You should also watch out for thieves who send fake emails from delivery services about a package being held pending delivery. The email directs you to click on a link that asks for your credit card or other personal information. Don’t just click. Review the email closely — check the sender information, look for misspellings and hover over the link with your mouse to see if it is really taking you to the delivery service’s website.
When it comes to charitable giving during the holidays, about one in three Americans say they have received a donation request from a charity that was likely fake. About one-third of those who received donation requests said they checked the donation recipient on a charity-rating site, and among those who did, more than half decided not to give any money.
You can check with the Better Business Bureau or go to charitynavigator.org or give.org to make sure your donation is going to the charities that really are using your money for good.
When it comes to fraud, vigilance and education are the best ways to protect yourself and your family from becoming victims. If you think you may have fallen victim to a scam this holiday season, call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 1-877-908-3360 for guidance and support.
Happy holidays from AARP Hawai‘i. Just be careful out there.
Craig Gima is communications director at AARP Hawai‘i. He is an award-winning multimedia communicator with more than 30 years of experience in telling stories online, in print and on television. A Honolulu native, Gima spent nearly 19 years at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in a variety of roles before joining AARP in 2016.