December 6, 2018

Grandmother and granddaughter using digital tablet living room

‘Tis the season for shopping, spending, and giving! But beware: the holidays are also prime time for financial scams. Unfortunately, some of the top scams target older adults, who may be particularly vulnerable to the tricks and tactics used by today’s scammers.

According to AARP, older adults lose billions of dollars each year to scammers, who ramp up their efforts to steal consumers’ money and personal information during the busy holiday season. Learning how to recognize the red flags of a scam will help you protect your older loved one from becoming a victim. Watch out for these common holiday senior scams:

Online shopping scams

Shopping online is a quick and convenient way to order holiday gifts, but it also opens the door to the risk of fraud or identity theft. If your senior loved one enjoys online shopping, remind them to use a credit card instead of a debit card to deter fraud. Encourage them to only shop from well-known and trusted online retailers. If a website looks unprofessional or suspicious or offers deals that appear too good to be true, it should be avoided.

Charity scams

Many people enjoy donating to charities during the holidays. But all too often, scammers take advantage of older adults’ generosity to solicit donations on behalf of phony charities. Be on the lookout for scammers who contact your senior loved one via mail, phone, email, social media, or even door-to-door asking for donations. You can always use an online directory such as GuideStar or Charity Navigator to verify a charity’s authenticity before donating.

Delivery notification scams

In recent years, there has been an increase in fake shipping notification emails attempting to steal consumers’ personal information. Scammers may pose as legitimate businesses such as FedEx or UPS and send an email with a hyperlink. When clicked, the link could download malware or spyware to the computer and steal information and passwords. Make sure your senior loved one has an email spam filter and knows to avoid clicking links from unknown sources.

Emergency scams

Emergency scams or “grandparent” scams target vulnerable older adults at any time of the year, but these common senior scams may be even more rampant during the holiday season. In an emergency scam, a con artist will call or email a senior posing as a relative in distress. They may ask their target to wire them money or send other personal information. These calls can be very convincing; scammers often use social media or other methods to obtain details about their intended victim’s relatives or friends. Inform your senior loved one about this common scam and remind them to never send money without first confirming the details of the story with another family member or friend.

Tips to avoid becoming a victim

Scammers are always looking for new ways to get ahold of consumers’ financial and personal information. Use these basic tips to protect yourself and loved ones from fraud:

  • Never give out personal or financial information online, over the phone, or via text message.
  • Never wire money to someone you don’t know.
  • Check your credit card and bank statements frequently for errors or fraudulent charges. The sooner you spot suspicious activity, the sooner you can take steps to correct it.

Scammers can strike at any time of the year, but it’s especially important to be vigilant around the holiday season. To stay on top of the most recent scams targeting seniors or to report a senior scam, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s consumer website.