AARP Eye Center
To keep your holidays merry, bright and safe, don’t let a crook lighten your wallet or steal your cheer. Modern-day grinches abound, a new survey for AARP suggests. The national poll of 1,027 adults found that 3 in 4 men and women either had been targeted or victimized by at least one form of fraud, with requests from a dubious charity for a donation (reported by 38 percent of respondents) leading the list.
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The next common frauds resulted from buying a product through an online ad (35 percent of respondents), a fake notification about a shipment issue (34 percent), a stolen package (25 percent), a gift card with no value (21 percent) and a con while applying for a seasonal job (8 percent).
The findings, along with an eight-question quiz about fraud and scams, are featured in a new report, "Holiday Scams: The Gift That Keeps on Taking," released Nov. 18. Fewer than 1 in 5 adults answered six or more questions correctly.
The respondents, who spoke by phone, were American adults who said they use the internet (at least occasionally) and typically shop for gifts, food or decorations for a holiday, observance or event from November through January.
The report urges consumers to do the following:
1. Check out charities before giving. Fifty-three percent of adults said they don’t always do such vetting, which is easy using sites such as Charity Navigator, CharityWatch and the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance. You can also search online using a charity’s name plus terms such as “scam” and “complaints.”
2. Be careful before clicking. Thirty-eight percent said they had made a purchase in the past 12 months by clicking on an ad on social media. The potential problems: These ads can lead to a fake site that is intended to resemble a legitimate business or that downloads malicious software on your device.
3. Protect packages from porch pirates. One in 4 adults said they had had a package stolen from outside their front door, so don’t leave unattended packages there. In a related vein, 34 percent said they had received a fake notification from the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx or UPS about a “shipment issue.” These notices are bids to steal your personal information.
4. Buy gift cards online and purchase them directly from the issuer, such as a retailer or restaurant. There’s no question that the cards are popular — 2 in 3 respondents said they plan to buy them for the holidays — but crooks tamper with gift cards on store racks.