(NewsNation) — A new report from AARP shows that scams are expected to spike over the next few weeks as many Americans ramp up seasonal spending for holidays including Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.
According to the report, the majority (76%) of U.S. consumers have experienced fraud.
“A majority of consumers have experienced or been targeted by at least one form of fraud that can be tied to the holidays,” the report reads.
Kathy Stokes, AARP’s director of fraud prevention programs, joined NewsNation’s “Morning in America” Friday to talk about how to stay safe from scams this holiday season.
Stokes said while a lot is going on online, the main thing to look out for is links in emails, texts or even an online ad for a “best deal” on the hottest item.
“You click it, you think you’re going to the website of a trusted retailer, and you’re actually not. It’s a fake website and they’re looking to grab your login or information or even to download malicious software on your device so that they can go after your username and passwords on all your accounts,” Stokes said.
Stokes goes on to say that, while this is a time of year when people like to give out gift cards, 26% of Americans have been given or received a gift card with no funds on it.
According to Stokes, criminals are well aware that most shopping today takes place online, especially since COVID-19.
“They’re looking at any opportunity to get between you and a legitimate site so they can steal money and sensitive information,” she said.
This includes shipments. Stokes said, there’s been a “big increase” in the share of people who say they experienced getting a fake shipping notification from FedEx or UPS. These notifications say there’s a problem with a package and to click a link to solve it. But that is not the case.
“We suggest, if you get something like that, contact FedEx directly, contact UPS or the postal service directly. Go to their website yourself instead of searching for UPS customer service because those could be fraudulent, too,” Stokes said.
Here’s some more tips on how to stay safe this holiday season from the AARP report:
- Clicking on online ads or on links from emails and texts is fraught with peril; type the web address of the site you wish to visit into your browser directly.
- Retailers will never contact you about a “problem” and request your login information.
- The safest way to use peer-to-peer (P2P) payment services is with trusted contacts.
- Credit cards have more consumer protections than other forms of payment.
- Updating your device and antivirus software when prompted is critical to protecting against the latest threats. (Better yet, consider setting up automatic updates.)