Preparing for the Holidays? So Are Criminals

Posted on 12/14/23 by Laura McDonough

While education is critical to combatting fraud, we can’t educate our way out of the fraud crisis.

A new 2023 AARP Fraud Watch NetworkTM report is highlighting the ways criminals target consumers during holiday season. A majority (80%) of U.S. consumers say they have experienced some type of fraud this year – many of which ramp up over the holiday shopping season. These holiday shopping scams have increased from last year’s report, from receiving fake notifications about shipments, to online ad scams, and more.

“The concerning findings from our annual survey are that fraud is on the rise and that knowledge about how to stay safe from fraud is dropping,” said AARP Vermont Director of Communication, Laura McDonough. “Education plays an important role in combatting fraud, but we can't educate our way out of what is now a rampant issue."

This year, significantly more consumers plan on shopping online compared to the last two years. Fraudsters often place fake ads online and across popular social media sites for steep discounts on the hottest items, for example.

Use of peer-to-peer (P2P) payment services has increased significantly for a second year in a row. A large majority of respondents shared they do business via P2P apps – such as sending money to businesses they have no previous relationship with. In the unfortunate event of fraud, these apps provide little protection to affected consumers.

Gift cards continue to be popular gift options, with 66% of those surveyed planning to purchase them this holiday season. However, 27% of consumers have experienced either giving or receiving a gift card with no value on it. “Criminals have old-school ways of manipulating cards hanging on retail racks and high-tech ways of searching online for cards with balances and draining them,” McDonough shared. “It may be safest to purchase a gift card directly from the card issuer’s website.”

In a 10-question fraud knowledge quiz that was again part of this year’s AARP survey, most respondents failed with only 28% of respondents able to answer 7 or more questions correctly. We need to home in on some key protections by educating consumers that:

• Retailers will never request your login information to provide customer support.
• Credit cards offer the most consumer protections of any payment method.
• Regularly accepting operating system upgrade prompts on your device is important, as some updates are to patch known fraud vulnerabilities.
• It’s risky to do a web search for a company’s customer support network because criminals buy ads impersonating those companies. Check billing and credit card statements for customer service, use the number on the back of your credit cards, or go directly to the company by typing in their web address, like www.aarp.org.

To read the full report and learn more visit: www.aarp.org/holidayscams2023


AARP Fraud Watch NetworkTM is a free resource that equips consumers with up-to-date knowledge to spot and avoid scams, and connects those targeted by scams with our fraud helpline specialists who provide support and guidance on what to do next. Anyone can call the helpline at 877-908-3360. AARP Fraud Watch NetworkTM also offers free, facilitated peer discussion groups that seek to provide emotional support for those experiencing fraud; and advocates at the federal, state, and local levels to enact policy changes that protect consumers and enforce laws.

This story is provided by AARP Vermont. Visit the AARP Vermont page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.

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