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AARP warns of holiday shopping scams

Nearly 8,000 people call AARP’s Fraud Watch Network helpline every month to report suspected scams, and a newly released AARP Fraud Watch Network Survey shows that calls related to holiday scams may be on the upswing soon.

“The holiday season is a time for togetherness, celebration, and giving,” said AARP Alabama State Director Candi Williams. “Unfortunately, the gift-giving process, from purchasing the perfect gift to making sure it gets to the recipient, also brings multiple opportunities for scammers to enrich themselves.”

Scammers deploy a number of tactics to steal during the holidays, ranging from online shopping scams, to scams involving the draining of gift cards, to package and shipping scams. The AARP study found that many consumers may be opening themselves up to risk as they shop this holiday season.

Here are some key findings from the survey:

76% of Alabamians have been targeted by or experienced at least one form of fraud in the past

76% of Alabamians will use their debit cards this holiday season (credit cards and digital wallets are safer online)

64% of Alabamians plan to purchase gift cards as a holiday gift, and 58% rely on purchasing them off the rack (a known target for scammers)

54% intend to use peer-to-peer (P2) apps like Venmo, Zelle or Cash App to send money, and 54% of P2P users have sent money to someone they didn’t know well (not recommended)

39% of Alabamians reported receiving a request for a monetary donation to a charity that felt fake or fraudulent

37% of Alabamians have received a fake notification about a shipping issue (which is separate from the equally important issue of packages still being stolen from porches)

In addition, the research showed that online shopping, which became the shopping method of choice for many American consumers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, remains extremely popular, underscoring the need to know how to do so safely.

Unfortunately, survey findings also show that many Alabamians don’t know how to do that, with most respondents failing related questions on a short quiz.

For example, only 29% of adults in Alabama know that online retailers will not ask you for your login credentials to provide customer support, and only 38% know that using a credit card vs. a debit card online offers greater protections.

“Ultimately, the point here isn’t to take the joy out of this time of year or take the fun out of gift-giving, but to help consumers be aware so they can protect themselves and their loved ones,” said Williams.

“This holiday season, serve your holiday cheer with a side of skepticism to help stay safe from increasingly sophisticated scammers.”


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