Focus on Seniors: Watch Out for Holiday Scams This Season

Holidays are a busy and stressful time of year. There’s traveling and planning for visitors. Buying and wrapping presents for loved ones. Avoiding the flu.  Cybercriminals know the hectic nature of holiday preparation and attempt to take advantage of anyone who may not be paying close attention, particularly older adults.

It’s crucial that the elderly and their loved ones keep an eye out for suspicious activity so they can avoid becoming a victim. Here are some common scams to be aware of this holiday season.

5 Holiday Scams to Watch Out For This Season

Following are some examples of scams that may target older adults this holiday season.

  1. Grandparent scam. This scam involves a criminal contacting a senior citizen, posing as a grandchild or other family member, who fabricates a family emergency, which requires immediate financial assistance. To avoid becoming a victim of this scam, contact family members directly to check if the emergency is real prior to providing any confidential information or sending money.
  2. Secret shopper. This scam offers gift cards to people to become a secret shopper – either online or in a store. They may either offer payment for your service or say that you will be able to keep what you purchase. To be a secret shopper, the “company” requires you to provide personal information and sometimes bank account numbers. You should never trust a secret shopper offer, and it is never wise to hand over personal information online or over the phone.
  3. Fake charities. In this scam, a victim is contacted by someone posing as an employee of a charity asking for donations. They make ask for an immediate donation that involves you giving bank account information either online or over the phone. Before giving money to a charity, look up the organization on to make sure it is legitimate, then give the funds to that charity directly.
  4. Free gift cards. Some scammers will pose as legitimate businesses, offering free gift cards through phishing emails. These emails attempt to entice you to click on links that will install malware on your computer. Never click on suspicious links in emails.
  5. Fake check scams. In this scam, the criminal will devise a scenario that will entitle you to receive a check. This could involve winning a prize or overpaying on an online purchase. To receive the check, you will be required to send money. Any time you receive an offer that says you will receive a check for sending money, it’s best to ignore it.

With any offers you receive – especially during the holidays – remember this. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. If you aren’t sure if an offer is legitimate, talk to friends and families to see what they think, and validate the offer directly with the company.

Source: Iowa Bankers Association

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