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Expert: Don't Let Fraud Ruin Your Holiday

Holiday shopping can leave Missourians vulnerable to fraud and identity theft. (earl53/morguefile.com)
Holiday shopping can leave Missourians vulnerable to fraud and identity theft. (earl53/morguefile.com)
December 14, 2015

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - As Missourians rush to check names off their holiday shopping lists, experts caution they need to ensure they don't compromise their bank accounts or personal information in the process.

Research has shown the stress of the holidays can make it tougher to spot scams, which is why Diane Hall, associate state director for community outreach with AARP Missouri, says extra vigilance is needed this time of year. While online shopping offers convenience, she says making purchases over public Wi-Fi networks often found at coffee shops, airports and hotels can be dangerous.

For one thing, hackers can set up what's known as a "spoof" network of their own.

"They will name it something that makes you think, oh yeah, that's the coffee shop I'm in, or that's the store I'm in, and it is not," says Hall. "Once you put your credit card information on there, there are smart folks out there who know how to hack into those wireless networks, and they can steal your credit card or your debit card information."

Hall says credit cards do offer better protection against fraud and theft than debit cards. She also recommends specifying a secure delivery spot or requiring a signature for online purchases so that they don't pile up on the front porch.

Gift cards are some of the most popular items this time of year, and Hall says caution is needed there, too, as scammers have begun targeting outlets that sell racks of different gift cards.

"Some of those gift cards are used, they've been altered," she says. "You need to really go to the store that you're going to get the gift card from. You need to go to that store and get the gift card. Makes it safer."

Hall says it's important to do some holiday homework, by researching retailers as well as any charities you're considering donating to on the website of the Missouri Attorney General, the Better Business Bureau, or CharityTracker.com

She also recommends brushing up on the latest scams in the area and checking out the other resources on the AARP Fraud Watch Network page.


Mona Shand, Public News Service - MO