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Don't Let Scammers Make Season of Giving a Season of Taking

When ordering online presents this holiday season, don't get scammed by thinking is the same as (
When ordering online presents this holiday season, don't get scammed by thinking is the same as (
December 18, 2018

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Scammers don't take a holiday, and that means shoppers who don't want to be taken advantage of during this shopping season need to stay vigilant.

Leah Ganschow, associate state director of AARP South Dakota, said some scams are seen year after year, while others are more common at the holidays. She urged shoppers not to rush when making online purchases and to beware of any "too good to be true" offers.

"So, it's very easy to click on an ad or a social media post offering a deal that seems just impossibly good,” Ganschow said. “And then when you click through to it, you might not get the item that you ordered, or you might get something that is defective or not of the quality that it appears to be online."

Ganschow said some scammers have been known to visit grocery stores or other retailers and steal activation codes and other data from gift cards later purchased by an unaware shopper. Scammers drain the card balances the second they're purchased, meaning the intended recipient never receives the monetary gift.

It's also easy to be lured to an online shopping deal when you're killing time in a public place. But Ganschow said it's also one of the easier swindles used by scammers.

"In places with free public WiFi like some coffee shops or hotels, a scammer can go in and set up a proxy WiFi network, and that WiFi network can intercept you,” she said.

Once intercepted by a proxy network, Ganschow warned credit card information can be easily stolen.

If you regularly wait until the end of the year to make charitable contributions, make sure you're on a legitimate website, because, Ganschow said, scammers are watching for year-end donations.

"So you want to check out any charity before you give to it at or to make sure that the donations are really going to that charity and the money can really be used for good as opposed to being intercepted by a scammer,” she said.

Ganschow added that shoppers should also be wary of Santa Claus letter scams aimed at parents and grandparents, and never enter information such as a grandchild's Social Security number.

AARP has resources to help identify scams. Learn more at

Roz Brown, Public News Service - SD