How to avoid holiday scams

By Stephanie Carson
Public News Service-NC

RALEIGH — While the holidays are a time of giving, experts say con artists are ready to take whatever they can from unsuspecting North Carolinians.

Photo by Don Hankins | Flickr.com Scammers are finding plenty of ways to part unsuspecting shoppers from their money this season. Experts recommend using extra caution when making online purchases.

Photo by Don Hankins | Flickr.com
Scammers are finding plenty of ways to part unsuspecting shoppers from their money this season. Experts recommend using extra caution when making online purchases.

Whether consumers are shopping in person or online, said Amy Nofziger with the AARP Fraud Watch Network, scammers are getting smarter, and some of their biggest cons involve fake charities, gift-card fraud and online shopping.

A newer trick, she said, is fake websites offering the hottest holiday item.

“If you click on one of those links,” she said, “you might think you’re getting a great price on a tablet, let’s say. But what you’re doing is going to the scammer’s fake website, entering your personal and credit card information, and that is where they victimize you.”

She recommended that shoppers go to a retailer’s direct website for online shopping.

North Carolinians of all ages can learn more about the red flags of fraud through the AARP Fraud Watch Network. It tracks trending scams, provides fraud alerts and allows registered users to share stories of fraud they’ve witnessed with others. They can check out a company or report a scam in North Carolina by calling the state Attorney General at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.

Gift cards are popular presents, and Nofziger said scammers will try cashing in on them by taking pictures of the numbers on the front and back of the cards inside stores before they are purchased.

“They will wait for someone to load funds onto that gift card and then they will drain them,” she said. “So if you’re buying a gift card, make sure to inspect the gift card – look at the front, look at the back, make sure it has not been tampered with.”

Nofziger said signs that people may have become a fraud victim include suspicious activity on a credit-card statement, receiving suspicious mail or unsolicited telemarketing calls. She said North Carolinians can protect themselves best by being informed.

“It’s really important for people to be proactive,” she said. “Learn the red flags of fraud and, certainly, share them with your family and friends.”

When shopping online, experts say it’s a good idea to use a credit card instead of a debit card that’s directly linked to a bank account, or pay with a pre-paid credit card.

More information about holiday scams is online at aarp.org/holidayscams.

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