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Beware of holiday scams

The holiday season is here, and that presents plenty of opportunities for scammers to spoil celebrations for those in the Greater Valley Area. 

A few scams are specific to the holidays, but most are variations on everyday frauds, ramped up to match seasonal spikes in spending and web traffic, according to AARP. 

A recently released AARP survey found that more than 70 percent of Americans plan to buy gift cards as presents. More, nearly one in five report that they have either given or received a gift card that had no funds on it, meaning it was likely compromised by a scammer. 

“That’s because gift card fraud shifts into high gear during the holidays,” a news release from AARP says. “Thieves can hit store gift card racks, scan the numbers off the cards, and then monitor them. As soon as the card is bought and activated, the scammers drain the funds.”

Another statistic from AARP that scammers are aware of is that 60 percent of consumers buy holiday gifts online, according to a Deloitte survey. 

“Scammers set up fake websites and run social media campaigns to drive shoppers to them,” the news release said. “Victims then spend money on products they will never receive as many of these spoofed sites are vehicles for harvesting credit card numbers and other personal data that fraudsters can use to commit identity theft.”

Evey Owen, interim associate state director of communications for AARP Alabama, says it’s important to be on high alert during the holiday season. 

“The holiday season brings good cheer and time with family and friends,” Owen said. “Unfortunately, while we are in a state of joy and giving, scammers use this as an opportunity to deceive and steal people’s hard-earned money.”

AARP Alabama offers tips to protect shoppers from scammers’ tactics this holiday season:

4Avoid following links directly from emails or social media to online stores; instead, type the name of the retailer into your web browser. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it may indeed be a scam

4To avoid disappointing your gift card recipient, buy cards from protected racks behind the store counter or purchase them direct from the retailer online. And always check them for evidence of tampering.

4Make sure the charity seeking your donation is legitimate, and that your money will actually be used for good. Check out the charity on charitynavigator.org or give.org before giving.