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Holiday Scams: What to Look Out For This Season

‘The Perfect Scam’ sits down with AARP’s Amy Nofziger to talk about how the holiday season is a prime time for scammers

spinner image While we are busy planning holiday gatherings and travel and buying gifts, scammers are working overtime coming up with ways to target us.

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spinner image infographic quote that reads "By tricking the search engine optimization, or paying for it, the criminals are able to get their criminal website at the top of your search results."

While we are busy planning holiday gatherings and travel and buying gifts, scammers are working overtime coming up with ways to target us. In this special bonus episode, Bob sits down with Amy Nofziger, from the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline, to talk about the ways criminals are following seasonal trends to exploit common scams. These include social media ads, shipping text messages, gift cards, charity giving, pet scams, seasonal work and holiday travel.

Full Transcript


[00:00:03] Bob: They're also working on the pressure of time, right, because you might really want that puppy on Christmas morning, and nobody else says they can get it to you because it's not realistic, but you know they created that time pressure that criminals so often take advantage of when they're looking to uh, to commit a crime against someone.

[00:00:20] Absolutely. I mean you know for an extra $200 just send it to me by Cash App and I'll actually show up on Christmas morning, ring the doorbell, and have a bow around the dog for your grandchild. What a surprise that will be for them. Right, again they will play into every image that we have created in our heads for what perfection looks like on this morning.


[00:00:44] Bob: Welcome back to The Perfect Scam. I’m your host, Bob Sullivan. So it is the holiday season, which is a great and exciting and fun time, but it's also a time when we see an awful lot of criminal activity, because so much is happening so fast, so many emails and phone calls and gifts, it's a real opportunity for criminals. And so we wanted to talk about what things to look for specifically this holiday season, and I can't think of anyone better to help us with that than Amy Nofziger who runs the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline that we talk about so much. And where volunteers there do amazing work taking phone calls almost every day from victims of crimes. And so that makes Amy the perfect person to listen in on the front line of what's happening. First of all, Amy, happy holidays.

[00:01:32] Amy Nofziger: Happy Holidays, Bob. Thanks for having me.

[00:01:34] Bob: Of course. What is the number one thing that people should be concerned about, either the number one scam or technique or what you want our listeners to know going into the holiday season?

[00:01:44] Amy Nofziger: Calm down. I mean let's just put it out there. We need to all take a big collective breath, and you know, holiday scams are, really no different than, you know, your regular run of the mill Tuesday scams, but what the criminals do is they are playing on your heightened emotion, your hustle and bustle, your to-do list, your speed at the decisions, you know the speed that you're making all of these decisions on, you know, who's coming to holiday dinner, what presents you need to buy. Where you're going to buy them? What's the best deal? So really just remind yourself that this is supposed to be a time of joy and reflection and just take a deep breath any time you are faced with any stranger or any ad or any opportunity that's coming across your plate.

[00:02:37] Bob: And, and so much comes across your plate, you might be ordering things online at a rate three or four times what you normally do, right? And so you get a lot of communications from, uh, stores like Amazon or other online stores that say we've received your order, we've shipped your order and, and all those messages create an opportunity for criminals, don't they?

[00:02:56] Amy Nofziger: Oh absolutely. I mean just think about how many times a day we're looking at this minicomputer that sits in our purse or our pocket which we all affectionally call a phone, but let's be honest, it's a mini computer. And we're scrolling, and we're looking, and we're getting messages, and we're getting notifications, and we're getting coupon codes, and we're getting this. So that is where the criminals will sneak in to you know your daily habits of scrolling and looking and shopping and buying and responding. That's where they'll sneak in with this opportunity. And again, because we're not sitting there thinking, oh, well let me take my time and examine this opportunity about this too good to be true sale right now, you're thinking, oh my gosh, it is my lucky day that this opportunity came across my plate. I have to act on it now. But you don't, really, and that's again just going back to the message of just, you know, take a deep breath, take a pause, count to five before you do any kind of financial transactions or any transactions like this online.

[00:03:58] Bob: And some of these messages are very well disguised. It might say, you know, "Did you order this from Amazon?" And of course, right away you're going to think, no! I didn't order it, and, and click on it and respond, or you might get a message with something that says, you know your, your order has shipped. Click here to see, you know, see its progress, to track your progress. And while a lot of those are legitimate, some of them are criminal, right?

[00:04:21] Amy Nofziger: Yeah, and this is where again, because we're so busy and we're doing so much during the holiday season, you might get that email that says, "Hey, there was a problem with your order," and you think, oh my gosh, there was a problem with my order. Because we're not really remembering what we're ordering. To get right into some of this is you know keep track, whether it's on a scratch piece of paper or in a, you know, Excel spreadsheet. Keep track of what you're purchasing, the vendor you purchased it from, and really, in my opinion, the most important, who is shipping it? Is it being shipped by USPS? Is it being shipped by a, you know, private shipping company? Who is shipping it because if you do get this text message or email that says there was a problem with your account, and they're saying, you know it was USPS when you know it's being shipped by a company like FedEx, you can cross-reference that sheet and go, nope, this is a scam, right. Remember who you're ordering from. Remember the price of it. So if you get that Amazon imposter text message or email that says, "Hey, we see a problem with your account, did you order this?" You can cross-reference and say, oh no, I didn't order that, but let me go into my actual Amazon account, not click on the link that came in the text message or email and verify through my account if that item is actually purchased on my account.

[00:05:39] Bob: I think that is a great idea to have a spreadsheet of all the things that you order so you don't get overwhelmed with this. It might sound like it would take a while, but you can do that online pretty, pretty quickly, right? That's a great idea.

[00:05:50] Amy Nofziger: Yeah, you can do it quickly, or even myself, I mean I am a, a pen and paper kind of person. Any time when I start, you know, doing my holiday purchases more just so I can keep it fair between my two children, right, I, I keep a list of what I purchase; I, you know, write it down, when is it expected to be shipped, who is it being shipped from? But mostly so then I can also just check off the box, and I think having kind of that to-do list, having that checkbox, having the documentation also helps us feel a little bit more in control and helps us kind of take that breath that we talk about.

[00:06:26] Bob: Ah, that makes a ton of sense. And by the way also, you know I've got a big family; once in a while I think I've ordered a gift for everyone and unfortunately, close to the holiday I found out I've missed something. So a list like that is helpful, even just not for scams, just in life. So I think that's a great idea.

[00:06:42] Amy Nofziger: Yeah, absolutely.

[00:06:44] Bob: I want to move onto some of the other things that you have told me that you're worried about. So here's one that I think is probably a big concern and everyone will see; social media ads, or just ads in general that might lead to crimes. Tell me about those.

[00:06:58] Amy Nofziger: So we, we love our social media, right, whether it's the big ones, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, you know whatever you're on and these ads come up with a product that looks great or with a price that looks fantastic. Just know that most of these ads are not fully vetted. Most recently, I've seen some ads for, you know RayBan sunglasses, or Louis Vuitton purses, with just prices that are just way below what you know that that item's going for. The ad looks like it is from Louis Vuitton, but it is not, right. So we've had a lot of victims of these scams off of social media ads, and we just know that if we're seeing these throughout the year, and outside of the holiday season, we know that they're going to increase during the holiday season, especially with the, you know, hot toys or the hot teenage gifts which I, you know am imagining are you know, any sports, any, you know, shoes, anything like that. Just know that those ads are not vetted, so when you click on that link, it's probably taking you to a third-party vendor that is not associated with the brand that you think you're buying. Oftentimes they will take payment by credit card or they'll take Venmo, Cash App, or Zelle, which is definitely a red flag, but we're even hearing from a lot of victims that if they do pay by credit card, the company will actually ship something; it's certainly not the item that you think you ordered. We've heard they've shipped little harmonicas, little whistles, toys, things like that. So when you do try to file a complaint with your credit card, the company says, nope, here's the shipping notice. It was delivered on this date. And you're unable to contest those credit card charges. So just be very, very careful with any social media ads. Check the URL that it's taking you to, better yet, you know, maybe just, this is one of those things that you just might have to pay full price for.

[00:08:48] Bob: Wow, so that seems like a big deal to me. So they, they ship something of minimal value, and when you go to dispute the charge with your credit card company, the credit card company gives you hard time, and we're so used to them not giving us a hard time. That sounds like a real problem.

[00:09:04] Amy Nofziger: Absolutely, right, so you're not just out the present that you were so excited that you thought you snagged, you're out that money as well and you're left holding some cheap, plastic toy that you had no intention in purchasing. So I, again, just really recommend that people first off, don't even maybe purchase off of social media ads, but then second, if you are going to purchase off a social media ad, just double-check the link and the URL that the, the ad is taking you to, and then just know this sometimes can be a gamble. If you're putting in your personal information and you don't know who the vendor is, maybe just don't take that risk, and go directly to the website of the item you want to purchase.

[00:09:42] Bob: So speaking of a gamble, holiday season is a frequent time where people decide it's a good time to get themselves a new pet, like a new puppy for example. Um, there's nothing more exciting than waking up on Christmas morning with a puppy, right? Um, but the, there are online crimes associated with pet buying that we have, we've talked about in the past, but this time of year, in particular, it's good to be concerned about it, right?

[00:10:06] Amy Nofziger: Yeah, and these are, I mean I just had to lock my two sweet angels in the basement with their father so I could talk to you today so they don't come and, and come in and like try to be a part of your podcast, Bob, you know we...

[00:10:18] Bob: They're welcome anytime, just so you know.

[00:10:20] Amy Nofziger: Oh well, fantastic, especially with pet scams, maybe they'll come and be the star... but you know we, we love our animals, and we love the companionship, and whether it's a dog, a cat, let me see what other animals, monkeys, lizards, raccoons, squirrels, bunnies, every, we've had every kind of pet scam. We have those images of surprising, you know, our grandchild with their first animal on Christmas morning, or you know during Hanukah. I mean it is, it is one of those moments that you know we conjure up in our head and so again, that is where the emotions can take over with this. But we really need to watch out for these pet scammers. And it's very similar, funny enough, to a romance scam because they'll send you fake pictures of the animal. They'll get you emotionally attached to this animal. They'll have the animal even baby talk to you over text message. "Hi, Mommy, I miss you, I can't wait to meet you." And you fall in love with this animal. But the thing is the way that they ask for payment is mostly through a peer-to-peer app like Venmo, Cash App, and Zelle. We have had a few instances where they are asking for crypto as well for payment for this animal. They'll say, "Meet us at the airport," you know, "the animal will be delivered to you," whatever it is, but then there's a crisis. "The animal needs more shots, the animal got stuck by customs, the animal doesn't have its appropriate paperwork. We need more money from the shipping company," whatever it is. These are, these are heartbreaking, because again, you have created this image in your head of what this picture looks like during the holiday season by gifting this animal. So just know again that this is one of the ones that the criminals will use your emotions to get the best of you and just steal your hard-earned money.

[00:12:00] Bob: And in this case, they're also working on the pressure of time, right, because you might really want that puppy on Christmas morning, and nobody else says they can get it to you because it's unrealistic, but, you know, they've created that time pressure that criminals so often take advantage of when they're looking to uh, to commit a crime against someone.

[00:12:16] Amy Nofziger: Absolutely. I mean, you know, for an extra $200 just send it to me by Cash App and I'll actually show up on Christmas morning, ring the doorbell, and have a bow around the dog for your grandchild. What a surprise that will be for them. Right, again they will play into every image that we have created in our heads for what perfection looks like on this morning.

[00:12:36] Bob: Got to say, these things all make me mad; that one makes me a little bit more angry. So let's move on before I start showing how angry I am about that kind of crime. Um, so uh, uh if you want to be safe and buy something for someone and make sure it fits, right, a lot of people now buy gift cards. Gift cards are a big part of holiday season, but there's a lot to worry about with gift cards, right? Tell us about it.

[00:12:57] Amy Nofziger: Yeah, there's a lot to worry about with gift cards and, and really you know, we see gift card fraud two ways on the Helpline. We see criminals asking for payment in gift cards, whether it's, you know, because you didn't pay your taxes, whatever, and just go get a gift card and read the numbers off the back. But we're seeing a lot of gift card fraud when it comes to you purchasing a gift card for someone, loading the money on the gift card, and then the recipient, you know, tries to use the gift card and then there's no funds available. I'll tell you, during the holiday season though, this one is kind of tricky because depending on who you gifted that gift card to, you might not know as the giver, that that recipient was never able to use it. You know, imagine you go purchase a gift card at your local grocery store for your, you know son's second grade teacher, and you, you know, provide them $25 to, you know, the local coffee shop. They go to try to use it, and they're like, "No, sorry ma'am, there's no funds left available on it." Do you think that that teacher is really going to come back to the parent and say, "Hey, you gave me a blank gift card." Right, they're just going to chalk it up and be like, oh well that stinks. So this is one of those, those crimes that oftentimes goes unreported. So the recommendation is really, if you are wanting to purchase a gift card for somebody as a gift this holiday season, it just be very cognizant and careful of where you're purchasing it from. Upfront by customer service where there's more eyes on the gift card, you know, not in the back of the store by the carousel where nobody is watching it. Get a copy of the little, tiny receipt that comes out on the register. Give that with the gift card to the recipient. Say it to the recipient, "Let me know if there's any problems with this. Please, let me know if you can't use it." Also, make sure that the card has not been tampered with. I have seen recently that most gift card companies are doing a better job of trying to hide the barcodes or the scanners, but just make sure it hasn't been tampered with. You know, even if that's taking kind of a tiny nail and trying to scratch off, um, not scratch off, but like see if the barcode has been tampered with, because people are putting fake barcodes on there sometimes. Even better yet, order it online, straight from the vendor, and have it shipped to either yourself or to the recipient. But you know it's, it's, these is one of those ones that you can do everything in all of your power, and unfortunately, you can still be a victim of a gift card scam in this way.

[00:15:20] Bob: And, and if I'm not mistaken, recipients can basically take the card and immediately go online and, and register them, and that will, will at least tell them if the card turns out to be valueless, but will also protect the value in case anything else happens. Does that work? Is that a good idea?

[00:15:36] Amy Nofziger: I mean certainly it's a good idea, but in practice, most people aren't going to do that. You know there's a lot of good ideas and things that I would like people to do out there, but we're still having a tough time of people you know kind of taking these barriers and you know, these things that they can do to protect themselves to do it, but absolutely. Or better yet, use it right away. You know don't let it sit around for a while. And you know we, we do believe that some of this gift card fraud can even be happening at the manufacturing site of it. It doesn't always happen in the store. So again, that's where, you know, you can do every single best practice possible, and you can still unfortunately be a victim, but then that's when you need to be an advocate for yourself, or for your recipient, and you know take it to the store and say, "Listen. You can see right here on the receipt that I purchased this gift card at 11:59 a.m., and I loaded $100 on it. At 12 p.m., the money was offloaded on the card. I wasn't even out of the store yet," right. That is a fraud that is happening behind the scenes that I had nothing to do with. I'm not saying that the store is going to, you know do anything, but again, that is, that is why you keep this documentation, and that is why you do fight for yourself and for the recipient when it comes to gift cards.

[00:16:52] Bob: You know and just to make it clear for people who might not be familiar with what's happening, like 'cause it seems almost sci fi. You buy a card in a store, and almost immediately some criminal somewhere is able to drain the value off that card. Is that how it works?

[00:17:06] Amy Nofziger: Yes, exactly. They have algorithms set up, and obviously with machine, you know, processing and learning and stuff, they could have the serial numbers and they're just kind of notified the minute money is loaded on that card and the card is active. And gift card companies and stores can actually tell you if there was money loaded on that card and if it was drained, or if there was money never loaded on this card. And I know this because this, this actually happened to me. My mother-in-law had given me a gift card for, for a holiday and I went to use it and they said, "This gift card is not valid." There was, money was never loaded on the card. Now do I think my mother-in-law did it because she doesn't like me? Absolutely not! At some point, at the point of... or maybe not ...

[00:17:51] Bob: You're giving me a good idea though.

[00:17:53] Amy Nofziger: ... but at the point of sale the clerk didn't scan it, you know the money never went on the card, I mean as silly as it is, you know you take the gift card off the carousel, you walk around the grocery store, you get your eggs, you get your milk, and you have the card, but you forget to load the money on the card. Right, so again, this is just where you need to advocate for yourself if you're left holding an empty card and find out what happened with it, and then fight for it.

[00:18:17] Bob: Would it make any sense if you are a purchaser of a card that you buy say you know December 15th, but you give it to someone on December 25th, to, to double-check right before you give it to them yourself to make sure the value is still on the card? Would that make any sense?

[00:18:31] Amy Nofziger: I mean absolutely it makes sense, but are people going to do it with everything else that's going on and the, you know paper plates that we've got to take to the school and the, you know, doorbells ringing and everything else? Probably not. But go ahead and do it, or just buy it and give it to them right away.

[00:18:46] Bob: I like that idea too. Okay, so all of this to-ing and fro-ng and moving around means a lot of people are also traveling during the holiday season, and I know there's a couple of different angles to travel that have you worried. So tell me what those are.

[00:18:59] Amy Nofziger: So we see this all the time when it comes to airlines and car rentals, but again, knowing how busy we are and how emotionally we're tied to maybe visiting family and friends during this time, and how, you know, maybe we're a little bit more strapped for cash because of the presents we're buying and the food we're ordering and et cetera, is people are going online and trying to find the best deal. And we know that people are finding fake airlines, fake hotels, and fake car rental places by just going to a search engine and typing in, you know, "best car rental deal in, you know, Fort Worth, Texas." And they come to the top website, they call the number, it's a fake car rental place. They're pretending to be associated with, you know, a legitimate one, and they ask for a payment in prepaid gift cards. Obviously, you know, they'll say something like, "Oh, we have a special deal running right now with, you know, Visa gift cards, just go purchase them, that'll give you the discount," et cetera, et cetera. And we're seeing this again all throughout the year, but again, I do predict that during this holiday season it's going to be increasing more, because again, we're trying to cut costs. We have this emotional tie to being to whatever location we're trying to go. Maybe we didn't plan far enough ahead, and we're just trying to again get the best deal possible and we're finding these. Additionally, with travel, you know I'm based in Colorado, and we got snow, and we always get snow. And it's cold. And listen, sometimes I want to be where it's not cold, so I'm going to try to find a holiday excursion for myself, you know, after the holidays, to you know warm up my bones. And so again, I'm going online or I see an ad on social media for a great holiday trip that again is not cracked up to what it would be and certainly there's no flights, there's no hotel, and then I'm out the money as well.

[00:20:55] Bob: And you know one thing we did a story about recently uh Amy is something that people sometimes call "malvertising." So there are these websites, these criminals that can either trick a search engine's algorithm, or sometimes they just pay and it works to, to get themselves in an ad that's placed directly in front of, in front of a consumer. So you might think you're booking a room at this hotel, but you're actually booking a room at some other site which may or may not be legitimate. Have you seen that?

[00:21:21] Amy Nofziger: Oh, every day, yeah, and because we trust that the thing at the top is the most important, and usually when we get our search engine results, we pick whatever result is at the top. And again, by tricking you know the search engine optimization, or paying for it, or however it is, the criminals are able to get their, you know, criminal website at the top of your search results. So just be very careful. Look. Sometimes it'll say ad next to it, but always look at the URL and even better yet, if you know you want to purchase, you know, an airline ticket from Frontier or Southwest, go directly to that website. Go directly to the website. And most of them will price match a legitimate price that you find better, you know on another website, or maybe you know a third-party website. They'll price match. But I also think knowing you're going through the legitimate sites, whether it's airline, hotel, or car rental, even if you're paying an extra $10, at least you know you're getting the product and the service behind it and that might be worth that extra $10.

[00:22:21] Bob: I think that's good advice too. Um, when it comes to travel, there is another kind of a very different crime that goes on, um sometimes involving some kids coming home from college or, or just, you--, younger people traveling. And tell me about this scam that, that connects to, to it sometimes called the grandparent scam, but it can impact anybody.

[00:22:39] Amy Nofziger: Yeah, grandparent scam, person in need, again we see this like, I mean again, it, it's all year round, but we do see it kind of attached to current events sometimes. Even not getting too far ahead of ourselves, I predict we're going to see an increase of this during the 2024 Olympics in Paris, right, so whenever there's a collective group of people who are traveling, whether it's spring break for college kids, whether it's, you know, the Super Bowl, whatever it is, whenever there's a collective group of people traveling, ah, guess who travels for holidays, we travel during the holidays; kids are coming home, "Grandma, grandma, you know, my flight is stuck, I'm at the Newark Airport, I can't get on this flight unless I pay right now to the customer service person at the counter. You know how much mom has been looking forward to me coming home. Can you please Venmo me you know this money. Can you please go buy that gift card? Can you please go to a crypto ATM machine," whatever it is. And you know whether it's a grandparent or other family member, right, we're busy, we're hustling and bustling, we don't want to be the person that is going to "ruin the holiday plans" because little Johnny can't get home from college. Um, you know, and little Johnny is the perfect thing for him to say, "Grandma, don't tell Mom, 'cause remember, I was going to surprise her and I don't want to stress her out. She's already so stressed out. You know how this time of year stresses her out. She's got to make those 15 pounds of cookies, right?" So it's just the perfect way for the criminals, again, to use the holidays to, to victimize us. This is an important one to have the conversation about the next time you're with your family, and whether it's, you know, Christmas, or whenever you're talking to your family next, sit down and just say, "Hey, listen. I know that there's this really popular scam going on right now called the Grandparent Scam. I know you don't think you'll ever be a victim, but just let me tell you, if you ever get a phone call from someone pretending to be me, or if I'm saying it's me, do not ever send money. Hang up that phone and call me at the number that you have in your phone for me. I personally, I have a college student, I've had this conversation with, with my mom. You know, if you ever get a phone call you know, that they're saying it's your grandson and he's in jail, or he's stuck, ignore him, please. Hang up the phone, call me. I'll call him. You call him, right, because that's just not how it works. Um, you're not stuck at the airport needing gift cards to pay for your flight.

[00:25:02] Bob: But in the panic of everything, of course we see people every day who end up sending money in a situation like this, and plus, I do have to point out the odds that any random American might get stuck at Newark Airport during this holiday season is very high, so...

[00:25:15] Amy Nofziger: Oh, I don't know. Denver International might take the cake right now. But yeah, but it is. And again, you don't want them. You don't want Johnny who's been at college, you know, for the last four months who just wants nothing but his own bed and a home-cooked meal stuck at any airport. But again, that's where you just, back to the what we said in the beginning, stop, take a breath, and think about the situation and think about just hanging up the phone at that moment and calling them back on the number you have for them to just verify everything.

[00:25:46] Bob: Okay, so there's two other kinds of scams which are pretty different from the things--, sorts of things we've been talking about so far, and I want to make sure we talk about them. One of them is charity fraud. A lot of people feel generous this time of year and go looking to, to donate money and there are ways to protect yourself against charity fraud. Tell me what people should do about that?

[00:26:04] Amy Nofziger: First and foremost, do not give any money to any charity that reaches out to you unsolicited. I'm getting the emails, everyone's getting the emails, and we all want to give money to hardworking charities. I mean it's, it's what we do, and they need our help. But do your research, that's the bottom line with any charities. Do your research, don't act under pressure. You can go to, you can go to, just find out the legitimacy of the charity. And I'll say the one interesting thing about charity fraud is most people don't know they're a victim of a charity fraud, because it, you give your money to this organization that you think is legitimate, end of story. You don't have a further relationship with them. So this is one of those frauds that most victims don't know that they're victims of unless someone tells them, unless they get a letter from the Attorney General's Office saying, "Hey, you know, we confiscated their files, and we saw your name in there," unless they see a news article about it. But give your hard-earned money to the charities and nonprofits that will do good with it, not just line the pockets of the people who started it.

[00:27:13] Bob: And so instead of just picking one based on an email or a piece of mail you get to your house, pick one that you know personally. Be more active about how you pick them, right?

[00:27:21] Amy Nofziger: Yeah, I actually recommend that people set up kind of their giving plan at the beginning of the year. This is a great kind of New Year's resolution and say, you know, I feel really tied to you know just ovarian cancer or you know, puppy mills, or you know whatever it is. And you know maybe I just told you what charities I care about, but you know, decide how much you're going to give to that organization throughout the year, and maybe you give it in a lump sum, maybe you take it out of your paycheck, maybe you take it out of your bank account, whatever you do to pledge to that organization. But this is also a way for you to then not feel that kind of guilt that we might feel at this time of the holiday season when you know, our table is bountiful, and we get these solicitations where peoples' are not. And you can say, you know what, this looks like a worthwhile organization, I will take this, I will do my research, and maybe I will add them to my giving plan for the next year.

[00:28:15] Bob: Okay, and another thing that happens a lot during the holiday season, a lot of companies hire seasonal workers because their retailers are so busy and there's other, uh reasons that people work maybe for a month or two to help out maybe get a little extra money for gift giving. Well what kind of things, uh raise alarm bells for you there?

[00:28:33] Amy Nofziger: Certainly, anybody that promises some kind of secret entrance into one of these holiday jobs, right. Like, oh, you're guaranteed a hire, no interview required, things like that, no background check. Nothing-nothing-nothing, or if they want to send you a check first and ask you to then deposit the check, buy some supplies, and then send the remainder money back to them via gift card, Cash App, you know, Venmo, whatever it is. I've already seen some hot advertisements for, you know, end of year you know holiday uh jobs. I mean I did this during college. I wrapped presents and let me tell you, I loved every minute of just staring at these beautiful gifts and wrapping presents. So there are opportunities out there that are legitimate. Just take your time, research, and just look for the red flags. Again, the red flags are, you know, no interview, no skills required, we're going to send you a check upfront, or we need your Social Security right away to process, things like that. You know, go find the local stores in your area. Go find the local companies. Have a face-to-face interview or a virtual interview with them, but just make sure to kind of do your research, and don't give them any personal information or certainly any payment for any upfront fees or, or job cost.

[00:29:44] Bob: I know we have given a lot of homework to Perfect Scam listeners in this conversation. Uh but just to make sure, is there anything else that you really think people should be aware of going into this holiday season?

[00:29:56] Amy Nofziger: Just listen to what people are asking for, right. If you have any opportunity that comes across your laptop, your cellphone, your phone, your mail, I mean listen to what they're asking for. Are they asking you for personal information? Are they asking you for a gift card? Are they asking you for cryptocurrency or to visit an ATM machine at a local store? Are they asking you for your Social Security number? If any of those requests are coming through, with especially the heightened emotion of the acting under pressure, the, the angst, um, you know if you're feeling any of that or witnessing any of that, just stop. Just literally stop in your tracks, call a friend, call us on the Helpline, call somebody and just check it out because the holidays, which they shouldn't be but we do it to ourselves, are stressful enough. You don't need to add any more stress to yourself by losing money in one of these scams.

[00:30:47] Bob: Amy, that is so helpful. Thank you so much for your time, and please pass along my thanks, and all of our thanks, to the folks who uh volunteer at the Fraud Watch Network Helpline for all that they do.

[00:30:57] Amy Nofziger: I certainly will. They would love to hear that.


[00:31:05] Bob: If you have been targeted by a scam or fraud, you are not alone. Call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360. Their trained fraud specialists can provide you with free support and guidance on what to do next. Our email address at The Perfect Scam is:, and we want to hear from you. If you've been the victim of a scam or you know someone who has, and you'd like us to tell their story, write to us or just send us some feedback. That address again is: Thank you to our team of scambusters; Associate Producer, Annalea Embree; Researcher, Sarah Binney; Executive Producer, Julie Getz; and our Audio Engineer and Sound Designer, Julio Gonzalez. Be sure to find us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. For AARP's The Perfect Scam, I'm Bob Sullivan.



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