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Survey Finds Michiganders Vulnerable to Holiday Grinches

Gift cards on store racks are a popular target for holiday scams. Credit: 401(k) 2012/Flickr
Gift cards on store racks are a popular target for holiday scams. Credit: 401(k) 2012/Flickr
November 12, 2015

LANSING, Mich. – The holiday season is nearly upon us, and a new AARP survey finds many folks are at risk of being taken by a con artist.

A majority (66 percent) of Michiganders in the poll failed a quiz about common holiday scams related to charitable giving, gift cards and the use of public Wi-Fi.

Mark Hornbeck, associate state director of communications with AARP Michigan, says AARP also found many people are doing things that could make them vulnerable to con artists.

"The worst case scenario we're talking about – identity theft and draining bank accounts,” he points out. “There's a wide array of scams out there and some of them can be that impactful on people's lives where they could lose their nest egg.”

Shoppers can protect themselves from theft by using a debit card instead of a credit card and not using public Wi-Fi.

Fraud experts also recommend purchasing gift cards online, instead of from store racks.

Hornbeck explains thieves can easily grab the number from the card when it is in the store, and drain the funds later when the card is activated.

Diligence is also needed with charitable giving, says Hornbeck, because some fundraisers keep 90 percent of the money raised.

"Sixty-seven percent of Michigan's consumers who were surveyed donated to a charity or a fundraiser in the past year and they didn't ask any questions about how the donation would be spent,” he explains. “And 65 percent made donations without verifying that the charity groups were even legally authorized to raise money in the state."

According to the survey, only 5 percent of consumers knew they could contact the Michigan Attorney General to verify the legitimacy of a charity.

Hornbeck says during stressful times like the holiday season, it can be more difficult to spot a scam.

"They have to know that scammers are zeroing in on their bank accounts and we encourage consumers out there to elevate their awareness of some of the popular scams and do their best to protect themselves and their families," he stresses.

AARP has information on how to avoid becoming a victim of a holiday scam through its Fraud Watch Network.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI