By AARP Fraud Watch | Guest Editorial
Online shopping scams
As we near the holiday season, online shopping increases and so do online scams. Only use trusted sites to make online transactions and be wary of steeply discounted items. Sometimes scammers will attempt to lure you into making a purchase with phony online sales.
In addition, if you plan to buy or sell your own goods online, use a website or app that uses proper safety measures to ensure that you don’t lose your money in the process.
Holiday employment scams
Over 500,000 people take seasonal jobs during the holiday season. Scammers like to take advantage of seasonal workers by posing as potential employers on third-party websites.
When prospective employees apply for these job listings, they will be asked to provide personal information such as their date of birth, address and Social Security number for “verification purposes.” Scammers can then use this information to steal your identity.
One big red flag to look out for is a job which offers a lot of money for very little work. If the position seems too good to be true, it is probably a scam. If you have questions about a job listing you see online, go directly to the business website or give them a call.
Holiday travel scams
Many people travel during the holidays to visit with family and friends. Be cautious of false rental advertisements online.
Do not use third-party websites to book hotels and be particularly wary of home rentals. Verify listings through online consumer feedback before you close the deal.
Some scammers will copy photos and details from real rental listings. They then accept pre-payment for booking the house or apartment. You may only discover that you have nowhere to stay on the day you’re supposed to check in.
Never give someone money before you see the place you are supposed to stay, and always verify the listing with hotels directly before booking any rooms.
During the winter season, we see an increase in scammers calling consumers and pretending to be a representative from their local utility provider. The fraudster will claim that your previous payments haven’t cleared or that you owe them money. They will tell you that you need to pay the outstanding balance over the phone, or else your power, heat, or water will be turned off within the hour. The swindler will insist that you didn’t pay the bill (even if you know you did), and will tell you to pay over the phone with a credit card or a cash transfer.
Scammers are banking on your fear that your heat will be shut off during the cold winter season in order to collect your personal information. Hang up and call your utility provider directly to confirm your billing status.
Be a fraud fighter! If you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam. Report scams to local law enforcement. For help from AARP, call 1-877-908-3360 or visit the AARP Fraud Watch Network at aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork.
—AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. To learn more, visit aarp.org or follow @AARP and @AARPadvocates on social media.