Resources to Combat Scams
The holidays are truly a remarkable time of year. During this season, many of us will take time to reflect on the blessings of 2016, and before we resolve to make 2017 even better, we will gather with family and friends to celebrate the times we have enjoyed together. While the holidays inspire many of us to be the best version of ourselves, there are others who seek to take advantage of heightened generosity and hurriedness for their personal gain. To help you and your clients stay safe from scammers, we have these five simple tips you can use to ensure the holidays are a great time for everyone.
- Research Unfamiliar Charities Before Donating – Scammers looking to cash in on an individual’s heightened generosity tend to solicit donations for bogus charitable organizations. The FTC has an extensive list to help individuals determine whether a charity is legitimate. However, a quick search of the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance website, or using a free charity lookup service such as Charity Navigator or GuideStar, can quickly help determine if a charity is a real.
- Consider How Payment Is Being Requested – Never wire money to pay for products, services or charitable donations. Credit card companies and banks have made significant investments in their fraud detection and prevention systems, making credit and debit cards a less lucrative target for scammers. Instead, scammers are now favoring money-wiring services such as Western Union and MoneyGram and reloadable card services such as MoneyPak, Reloadit, Vanilla.Reload and many others. Legitimate business and charitable organizations will never request payment using one of these methods.
- Buy Gift Cards Carefully – Gift cards are also a popular means for scammers to separate hurried holiday shoppers from their money. AARP recommends buying gift cards directly from the store to avoid being scammed. Additionally, be familiar with the terms of the gift card – knowing if there are restrictions on its use as well as when the funds on the card expire can ensure the gift card is used for its full value.
- Know the Warning Signs of a Scam – No matter the specifics of the scam, each type of scam has its hallmarks. This can make it easy to know when to ask more questions. Telephone scams typically involve high-pressure sales tactics; charity scams often come with heartfelt emotional appeals for donations. USA.gov, a one-stop website providing easy access to information, maintains a list of common scams and how to spot them.
- Get Scam Alerts From the FTC – It can be impossible for any one individual to stay current on all the scams out there. Fortunately, the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information Division is actively tracking scams and provides scam alerts on their website or via email. You can sign up to receive scam alerts from the FTC here.
While popular opinion is that older individuals are more susceptible to scams, Michael Ross, writing in the journal “Perspectives on Psychological Science,” concluded that consumer fraud is no more prevalent among older adults than any other age segment of the population. This holiday season, it is a good idea for everyone to be cautious, so we all don’t fall victim to a scam.