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5 strategies to avoid scams this holiday season


Seventy-five percent of adults say they’ve been targeted by or experienced at least one form of fraud, according to a survey from the AARP Fraud Watch Network.

Online shopping has skyrocketed, and experts warn that an uptick in holiday scams may follow. “Fraud is really like a crime of opportunity,” said Victoria Funes, associate state director for AARP Florida. “More traffic creates more available victims for people who are phishing for your dollars. Every time you have a holiday, the tactic gets modified to fit it, because that’s an easier way to hook people.” 

Here are some strategies to combat fraud:

1. If you didn’t initiate the communication, be wary. “A good frame of mind is just to dismiss anything that you’re being pitched or solicited if you did not initiate it,” Funes said. Don’t give out personal information to anyone seeking you out, be it by phone or online. Remember: You can always verify something yourself first. 

2. Go with known websites when shopping. A lot of scam websites will use web addresses that are similar to popular shopping sites like Macy’s or Home Depot — but usually, there’s a grammatical error or a slight difference. If you get a pop-up or email promising a deal at an online website, don’t click the link. Look up the website yourself via a search browser, and make sure it is a legitimate homepage for a company you know. 

3. If an unknown number calls with an ‘urgent matter,’ hang up. Whether they’re warning you of a warranty about to expire, claiming a bank account has been breached or pretending to be a relative in crisis: Hang up. “It’s been proven that the longer you stay on the phone, the more vulnerable you become to them getting something out of you that they can use,” Funes said. 

4. Don’t click on links in text messages. Scammers will often send texts claiming an Amazon or bank account’s security has been compromised, and ask recipients to “Click here to verify your information.” Do not click the link. “Sometimes even by clicking on it, you are getting to a higher security risk by them being able to get access to information on your mobile device,” Funes said. 

5. Use credit cards for online payments. Credit cards and digital wallets are safer to use online than debit cards, as they prevent someone from having direct access to the cash in your account. 

This article was written by Hannah Critchfield, Tampa Bay Times


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