Online holiday shopping: 6 sneaky scams targeting seniors this year
More and more, seniors are heading online to get their holiday shopping done — and scammers everywhere are taking notice.
Just how big has online shopping become? The National Retail Federation (NRF) expects this year’s online retail spending to hit a staggering $678.75 billion (not just from seniors, that’s everybody).
The closer we get to the holiday, the more vulnerable you become. Reason: When people let their Christmas shopping go until the last minute, they tend to let their guard down and become more susceptible to the types of too-good-to-be-true scams and dubious charity requests they may have avoided if they weren’t in a rush.
How to stay safe
Luckily, simply educating yourself on the common scams that are wreaking havoc on your peers can go a long way toward keeping you from falling victim yourself. To that end, the Better Business Bureau urges folks to be hyper-aware of these schemes:
1. Fake but realistic-looking websites email you for private info. If you’ve been getting email alerts letting you know about deals, gifts and out-of-this world sales, watch out. Even though these emails may look like they’re coming from legitimate businesses, the links often take consumers to look-alike websites that convince you to provide private info or give you a chance to download malware onto your computer.
What the BBB says you should do if you’re unsure about the email:
- Review the sender’s address, as businesses will often send emails with a proprietary address, like @bbb.org.
- Look for misspellings throughout the email.
- Hover over links without clicking to see where they reroute (this video shows you how to do this if you’re unfamiliar).
- Only enter sensitive information into a website that begins with “https” as the “s” informs you that it’s secure and information entered is encrypted.
2. “Out-of-this-world” deal promotions. This should be the mantra of all online holiday shoppers: If it sounds too good to be true, then by golly, it is.
This is especially true with things you see on social media. Even if one of your trusted Facebook friends is the one shared the supposed “deal,” avoid the temptation to jump at an opportunities that encourage you to “act now before it’s too late!”
3. Dubious charities requesting donations. Most people bump up their charitable contributions during the holidays — and fraudsters are well aware of this fact. As a result, you’re bound to be hit with an influx of requests to open up your purse strings and help those in need. While many of these charities are legit, there are a lot of illicit organizations as well.
Best bet: Do your homework and research any unknown charities online at give.org.
4. A social media gift exchange (also know as “the Secret Sisters Gift Exchange”). This is a pyramid scheme that has enjoyed much success in recent years (starting around 2015). Essentially, this con asks people to purchase one gift for a reasonable amount ($10 to $15) and provide details like your full name and address, and in return you’ll get multiple gifts. Problem is, you don’t receive any of the gifts you’re promised, and your information has been sent out on the web where some very unscrupulous people can use it for nefarious purposes.
5. Shipping and delivery email confirmations. A common scam seniors fall victim to during the holiday season is via an email urging them to click on a shipping and/or delivery confirmation from a company claiming to be FedEx or UPS. The worst part is these messages can look very official.
Remember, companies like FedEx or UPS will provide you with a tracking number from the merchant. If you want to check on the status of your online purchase, it’s safest to go to the shipping website (UPS, FedEx, etc.) and manually enter the tracking number you were provided.
6. Promise of free gift cards. For whatever reason, many folks are often willing to fall for an offer for a free gift card — even if you don’t have to do anything to receive said gift card. Around the holidays, scammers take advantage by sending out a barrage of phishing emails and pop-up ads offering these supposedly free gift card.
According to the BBB, if you come across one of these offers you should never:
- Open the email as it can be a phishing attempt but, if you do, don’t click the links. Instead, mark the email as SPAM or JUNK.
- Share any personal information to receive the card as the scammers will use the information to steal your identity later.
- Click the ad but close out of the app or program you are using, clear your history and turn on your ad blocker.