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Online Shopping Practices Pose a Risk During Holiday Season

Holiday shopping, like most shopping these days, has moved online, and that poses unique risks. During last year’s holiday season, an AARP survey revealed that more than 75 percent of U.S. consumers reported that they experienced some kind of fraud and a similar share of consumers failed a nine-question safe shopping quiz. The AARP holiday scams survey identified three specific threats. 

Online shopping scams – Making a purchase through an online ad may lead to fraud.

  • Fraud criminals set up professional-looking websites offering popular items at a deep discount. When consumers purchase these supposed deals, they find out that either nothing arrives or the product they receive is not what was advertised. 
  • Be suspicious of any online offer of a discount deeper than other retailers have. Do your online shopping with trusted retailers. 
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Gift card graft – Giving or receiving a gift card that has no value on it isn’t uncommon.

  • Criminals manipulate cards on store racks or use electronic means to scan for activated gift cards online and drain the value off the cards. 
  • Consider purchasing gift cards directly from the retailer online and register them if that’s an option. Use the card sooner rather than later to improve odds that you’ll get to spend the balance before a criminal can. 

Package scams – Fake notifications abound from UPS and FedEx impostors claiming a shipment issue.

  • Criminals send out droves of texts, claiming a delivery is on hold because there is an issue with your address or insufficient postage, nobody was home to receive it or they have some other “problem.” You’re asked to click a link or call a given number to address the alleged issue. 
  • Avoid clicking on links from texts; rather, type the web address into your browser directly, use your app if that’s an option, or contact the shipping company using a verified phone number (for example, look up the number at versus “Googling” for it; otherwise, you may come across a listing that a criminal paid for). 

Knowledge gives you power over scams. The AARP Fraud Watch Network equips you with reliable, up-to-date insights and connects you to our free fraud helpline, so you can better protect yourself and loved ones. We also advocate at the state, federal and local levels to enact policy changes that protect consumers and enforce laws. 

When it comes to fraud, vigilance is our number one weapon. You have the power to protect yourself and your loved ones from scams. Please share this information with friends and family. 

Support for Fraud Victims: The AARP Fraud Watch Network offers AARP VOA ReST, a free program that provides emotional support for people affected by fraud. Hour-long ReST sessions are confidential small-group meetings that are held online and led by trained peer facilitators. Experiencing a scam can be devastating, but it doesn’t have to define you. Interested? Visit to learn more.

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Have you seen this scam?

  • Call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360 or report it with the AARP Scam Tracking Map.  
  • Get Watchdog Alerts for tips on avoiding such scams.