By WILL WHATLEY, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – If you’ve still got some last minute holiday shopping to do, you might want to be aware of some scams that could be targeting shoppers.
One popular last-minute gift is gift cards or prepaid reloadable cards, which can be purchased at places like grocery stores and convenience stores. However, thieves often hit store gift card racks, scan the numbers of the cards, then monitor them. When the card is bought and activated, the scammers steal the funds.
A recently released AARP report of US adults found that more than 70% of shoppers plan to buy gift cards as presents. Additionally, nearly 20% of adults report that they have either given or received a gift card that had no funds on it.
According to AARP, gift card fraud revs up during the holiday season.
“The holiday season brings good cheer and time with family and friends,” said Evey Owen, Interim Associate State Director of Communications for AARP Alabama. “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.”
According to the AARP, fraud has increased significantly from last year. According to fraud reports from the Federal Trade Commission, $74 million has been lost in scams involving gift cards and reloadable cards in the first three quarters of 2019. There was $78 million lost for all quarters of 2018.
To better protect you and your family from these scammers this Christmas season, AARP Alabama offers the following tips:
- Avoid following direct links to online stores from emails or social media; instead, type the name of the retailer into your web browser. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it could be a scam
- Buy gift cards from protected racks behind the store counter or purchase them direct from the retailer online and be sure to check them for any evidence of tampering.
- Make 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 donating.
AARP’s Fraud Watch Network can help you avoid scams. Sign up for free watchdog alerts at aarp.org/FraudWatchNetwork or call toll-free (877) 908-3360 if you or a loved one suspect you’re a fraud victim.