TAMPA, Fla. — Just like the 12 days of Christmas, there are a dozen ways for scammers to steal your money during this Holiday season. In-depth reporter Anthony Hill spoke with experts about how thieves target and steal from holiday shoppers. He’ll also show you how to avoid being a victim.
With the holiday season upon us, people are rushing to make last-minute purchases and for as many legitimate websites that are out there, there are just as many illegitimate ones. The problem is sometimes it is hard to tell the difference.
“The scammers are all over the place and we just have to follow some best practices to avoid losing money or sensitive information,” said Kathy Stokes, director of Fraud Prevention Programs at AARP. According to an AARP survey, 75% of adults say they have been targeted or have been victims of fraud.
“More important than anything else is just be hyper-aware of passing out any of your personal information or someone asking for credit card details. Just don’t do it,” said Mike Bruemmer, VP of Data Breach Resolution and Consumer Protection at Experian.
According to AARP, 21% of adults say they have given or received a gift card with no value. Sometimes it is just an error with the actual card, but other times, it is the work of scammers. “We know that scammers go into retail stores and they grab cards off of that big, shiny rack,” said Stokes. From there, they take pictures of the card, getting information to use later. Then they put the card back on the rack and wait for someone to load money on the card.
So, here’s how you can avoid that from happening to you. Buy gift cards from the retailer’s website, but if you do decide to buy them in the store, examine the card to see if there is any evidence that it has been tampered with.
According to AARP, 45% of people say they plan on sending money and paying for gifts this holiday season through peer-to-peer apps like Venmo, Zelle and Cash App, but it turns out that is not the best idea. “They’re intended for us to use with our friends and family, you know. To split a dinner bill or pay the babysitter,” said Stokes.
Scammers lure people in by requesting money through these apps in exchange for products. “We’re not covered for that. We’re going to lose that money,” said Stokes.
“If you’re going to an e-commerce site, especially during the holidays, use a credit card versus a debit card,” said Bruemmer. Credit cards are a better choice than debit cards and peer-to-peer apps because they offer more protection against fraud.
Many people will feel the urge to give to those in need this holiday season. Some will choose to do that through charities and scammers know that. “They’ll pretend to be a legitimate charity or they’ll make up a charity that sounds really great and that we really want to support,” said Stokes.
Before deciding to donate, check to see if the charity is the real deal. We have posted websites at the end of this article that will help you validate legitimate charities. “If it is listed, check out what amount of the money that’s raised actually goes to the charity versus is going to pay the fundraisers. You might be surprised,” said Stokes.
Lots of websites may look legitimate, but many are not. Some were created by scammers. “Check in the upper left-hand corner for the URL to see that the site has an HTTPS,” said Bruemmer. Those letters at the start of the website address mean it has been encrypted, making it harder for scammers to hack.
Here are websites that validate legitimate charities
For more tips on how to protect yourself from scammers visit