BEWARE OF COMMON HOLIDAY SCAMS
It is now common knowledge that scammers often focus on older consumers during the season. Why? Seniors have had a lifetime to accumulate wealth, they’re more likely to own their own homes, and many older adults are simply less familiar with how to stay safe while online.
Popular scams include online shopping schemes in which phony offers or coupons are designed to compel users into clicking a link that installs malware on their computer or asks for personal or financial information; gift card fraud in which cards sold in stores have been tampered with and compromised by scammers so that they can drain cash on cards that consumers have legitimately purchased for themselves or as gifts; phony charities that exploit older consumers’ goodwill and generosity via fake websites or telemarketing calls, and more. AARP outlines popular scams targeting older adults every year – you can find their list of other fraud schemes focused on seniors here.
Another scam that families should be aware of involves the Geek Squad, Best Buy’s tech support service. Schemes like this one often involve a communication – purportedly from a legitimate company or service. The trouble begins when the consumer responds to it. Law enforcement has received increasing reports that scammers – impersonating the Geek Squad – are sending fake emails that trick people into revealing their personal data.
Here’s what happens, according to the Federal Trade Commission: The fake Geek Squad sends a text or email informing consumers they are about to be charged hundreds of dollars for a transaction that never happened – unless they call to cancel. When the surprised consumer tries to cancel, the scammer requests financial information, such as their bank data. The scammer may also request remote access to the caller’s computer, which they can use to install spyware that captures valuable information.
One phony email reviewed by Scam Watch came with the subject line: “Invoice money debited today” and a signature from “Geek Squad Billing Support.” A fake charge of $433.48 was listed for a subscription to “Geek Squad Security,” with a phone number for the recipient to call to cancel. In a related Geek Squad scam, crooks pretend to send a refund that is too large, then ask their victims to pay the difference with a gift card.
Imposter scams are a common fraud in which criminals lull their victims by pretending to be a legitimate company, often one that the consumer has done business with. “Scammers send alarming messages like this to rattle you,” the FTC reports. “Don’t let them. If you think the message is legitimate, contact the company in question using a phone number you know is real. Do not use the number included in the message.”
Stay safe, and take steps to keep loved ones safe, over the holidays. Make sure you help them keep an eye on their accounts. Financial scams can turn the holiday season into a nightmare.