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AARP West Virginia warns of uptick of scams during holiday season

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The holiday shopping season means scams may be on the rise and AARP’s Fraud Watch Network helpline is looking to help.

According to AARP West Virginia, nearly 8,000 people call AARP’s Fraud Watch Network helpline every month to report suspected scams, and a newly released AARP Fraud Watch Network Survey shows that calls related to holiday scams may be on the upswing soon.

“The holiday season is a time for togetherness, celebration, and giving,” said AARP West Virginia State Director Gaylene Miller in a release. “Unfortunately, the gift-giving process, from purchasing the perfect gift to making sure it gets to the recipient, also brings a plethora of opportunities for scammers to enrich themselves.”

Scammers deploy several tactics to steal during the holidays, ranging from online shopping scams, to scams involving the draining of gift cards, to package and shipping scams, a release stated. The AARP study found that many consumers may be opening themselves up to risk as they shop this holiday season.

“We tend to want to click on those good deals that we see pop up on our social media feeds. We urge consumers to not do that, be careful on what you click on. If it’s a deep discount, anything greater than a 55 percent discount, then more than likely it’s a scam,” Tom Hunter with AARP West Virginia told MetroNews.

Here are some key findings from the network survey:

Three out of four (75 percent) U.S. adults have been targeted by or experienced at least one form of fraud in the past
69 percent of Americans will use their debit cards this holiday season (credit cards and digital wallets are safer online)
66 percent plan to purchase gift cards as a holiday gift, and 60 percent rely on purchasing them off the rack (a known target for scammers)
45 percent intend to use peer-to-peer (P2) apps like Venmo, Zelle or Cash App to send money, and 69 percent of P2P users have sent money to someone they didn’t know well (not recommended)
38 percent of adults reported receiving a request for a monetary donation to a charity that felt fake or fraudulent
34 percent have received a fake notification about a shipping issue (which is separate from the equally important issue of packages still being stolen from porches)

Hunter said to always be careful through text messages as that is a rising attempt to scam someone.

Tom Hunter

In addition, the research showed that online shopping, which became the shopping method of choice for many American consumers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, remains extremely popular, underscoring the need to know how to do so safely, a release said.

“It’s a limited time offer, limited supplies or deep discount. This year you’re going to see play into ‘there is a supply chain issue, limited supply. Or there is a chip issue, limited supply.’ Just be very wary and very careful,” Hunter said.

The AARP Fraud Watch Network was launched in 2013 as a free resource for people of all ages. Consumers may sign up for “Watchdog Alert” by email or text that deliver information about scams or call a free helpline at 877-908-3360 to report scams or get help from trained volunteers in the event someone falls victim to scammers’ tactics.

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