The holidays should be a time for family, joy and togetherness. Unfortunately, criminals know that the holidays are also a prime time for fraud and scams that target seniors. That is because a lot of money changes hands during the season. Between charitable giving, buying gifts and travel, scammers find many opportunities to cross our paths. Here are a few common scams to watch for during the holidays:
- Fake charities. Unfortunately, there will always be people wanting to take advantage of the kindness of others. Don’t let that ruin your charitable spirit around the holidays, but be on your guard. If you are not familiar with a charity, confirm they are legitimate. A good website to use is give.org, which tracks and rates charities.
- Email offers. Many people are bombarded with email offers during the holiday shopping season with lots of great sales offers. And some of them really are great. But do any of them seem like they are too good to be true? Then they probably are. Here are some tips to weed out phony offers:
- Check the sender’s address. If the offer comes from a well-known store, such as Target, then the email address should come from a “@target.com” sender.
- Be careful of links. Many ads use links to help you jump to the page you are looking for, but be careful if the email includes a link to a page asking you for private information. Instead, go to the actual website and search for the deal advertised in the email. For example, if the email looks like it came from Best Buy, go to Best Buy’s website to search for the deal and do your shopping from there.
- Check the website’s address. If the email tries to send you to a website where you have to enter sensitive information, check the address on the top of the page. It should begin “https.” This means that it is a secure website.
- Free gift cards? Some stores give gift cards as rewards for a purchase, but e-mails or web ads that offer free gift cards without any type of purchase are probably a scam. Do not click on these links or ads.
- Emergency calls. One disturbing trend that seems to be growing is fake emergency calls. Scammers call seniors and pretend to be a family member, such as a grandchild. They claim to be in some sort of trouble, and need emergency money. Always verify the person you are talking to by asking a question only they would know. Scammers often hang up when they can’t answer these questions.
These are just a few of the scams out there around the holidays targeting seniors, but new ones continue to pop up. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if something seems fishy, and seek help from someone you trust who is tech savvy. No one deserves to have their generous spirit taken advantage of during the holidays.