(Photo by Andrea Piacquadio of Pexels)
The Council on Aging of Central Oregon is encouraging seniors and their family members to be extra vigilant this holiday season as more of us are shopping online due to COVID-19 safety precautions.
Our holiday celebrations will likely look very different in 2020 as we seek out a balance between celebrating with our loved ones and staying safe. But one practice isn’t likely to go anywhere — it is still the season for scams, as crooks diligently work to exploit our online holiday shopping plans.
Unfortunately, seniors are a common target for fraudsters, especially during the holidays. Why? Seniors often have nesteggs, own their homes, have excellent credit and are trusting and polite by nature, as the FBI points out. And, with more older adults alone and doing business online during the pandemic, the risk of falling victim to fraud is higher than usual.
A few scams are specific to the holidays, but most are variations on everyday frauds, ramped up to match shopping increases in spending and online shopping options. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, 71 percent of consumers plan to do most of their holiday shopping online in 2020, according to a CreditCards.com survey.
“Helping your senior loved ones watch out for the very real risk of scams and fraud is just one way to make the holiday season brighter, states Council on Aging Executive Director Susan Rotella. “With a little bit of knowledge and planning, you and your loved ones can know what telltale signs to watch out for, and what steps you can take to avoid getting cheated.”
Be on the lookout for the gift card scam. According to a new AARP survey, more than 70 percent of Americans plan to buy gift cards this season. When asked, one in five said they’ve given or received a gift card with no money on it.
An estimated 36 percent of Americans have had a package stolen from outside their home at least once. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, the U.S. Postal Service expects to ship more than 800 million parcels, and at least one of them is likely to be yours.
Also, keep in mind that it’s safer to pay with credit or debit cards instead of cash because cards provide you with consumer protections against fraud and other problems.
Steps you and your love ones can take to avoid holiday scams:
- Before shopping online, secure all financial accounts with strong passwords or passphrases. Additionally, the FBI recommends using different passwords for each financial account.
- Check all of your bank and credit card statements routinely, including after you make any online purchases. And keep checking your statements in the weeks following this holiday season.
- Never, ever give your personal information — such as your Social Security number, or billing address — to anyone you do not know.
- Be very cautious of promotions and giveaways that ask for your personal information.
- If you choose to donate to a charity this year, please visit their website or call them to verify they have a valid tax identification number.
Pay extra attention this holiday season to make sure you and your loved ones are protected from scammers. Don’t let a few bad actors take the joy out of your holidays.