The holiday season is an incredibly busy time of year. Between the shopping, cooking and celebrations, there is often much to do in the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. Unfortunately, however, this time of year is also when con artists are at their busiest as well.
According to U.S. News & World Report, seniors are often victimized by a number of scams. Whether over the phone, in person or through a family member, older Americans may be viewed as easier targets in fraud involving identity theft, Medicare, drugs or health insurance, sweepstakes or investment opportunities.
Here are a few of the most common scams during the holiday season and how to spot them.
Fraudulent Gift Cards
According to AARP, plastic or electronic gift cards giver scammers a good opportunity to make easy money. Thieves may visit a store and write down or scan the information on the card. From there, they can check online or call the business to determine if the card has been activated. Even if you personally bought the gift card, a con artist can drain the funds online before you make a purchase.
AARP reported that avoiding this scam takes a few easy steps. Inspect any gift cards to see if they have been tampered with or removed from any packaging. Only buy gift cards from reputable stores and ask the cashier to scan the card before finalizing any purchase. Buying gift cards online is also a way to minimize the risk of any scam. Make sure to keep your receipt to defend yourself against any fraudulent activity as well.
Unfortunately, soliciting false charitable donations is one of the most popular scams that take place around the holiday season. AARP stated that this trick takes advantage of people's desire to give back during the holidays. Thieves may make up their own fake charity or present themselves as a representative of an existing organization.
For any suspicious or unfamiliar charity, consider looking on the Internet to see if the organization exists and is trustworthy. AARP reported that groups like the Better Business Bureau can help verify charities over the Internet or phone. Likewise, try calling the charity in question directly to confirm a donation. According to U.S. News & World Report, telephone scams are very popular for targeting seniors. For that reason, donations should never be made over the phone unless you have initiated the call.
Giving to charity during the holidays is a wonderful idea, but make sure the money reaches the organization. Donate by check whenever possible, and consider reaching out to a charity directly to ensure they receive your funds.
Online shopping is increasingly popular, according to the National Retail Federation, and scammers are taking notice. AARP stated that false websites, email offerings and other tactics may be used to trick people out of their money over the computer. Often incredible discounts are offered on websites that look similar to those of familiar brands to lure shoppers in. Likewise, professional-looking emails promising enticing savings may cause online shoppers to give up credit card information before they realize the website is not legitimate.
Use a search engine to double-check and make sure a retailer is safe. Likewise, AARP reported that searching the "vendor's name + scam" is important for making sure other folks haven't had issues with the website in the past. Clicking on links directly from potentially fraudulent emails could lead you to an unsafe website. Pages without "https" at the beginning of the website address may not be safe. The "s" in the web address stands for secure.
For any website that is suspicious, see if there is a contact phone number to call and verify that the site is secure.
Source: Sunrise Senior Living