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Tips for Avoiding Scammers Trying to Exploit Holiday Cheer

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With the holidays approaching, online scams already are up this year. (zephyr_p/Adobe Stock)
With the holidays approaching, online scams already are up this year. (zephyr_p/Adobe Stock)
December 15, 2020

PORTLAND, Ore. -- It's the holiday season, and fraud experts have some tips for shoppers on how to keep the season merry.

Chuck Harwood is Pacific Northwest regional director for the Federal Trade Commission. He said thieves this time of year like to cloak their scams with a holiday theme. With online purchases up during the holidays, Harwood advises folks to be wary of links that come to their email box or via text message.

"Either you will end up with malware, which is dangerous software on your computer that will be loaded by the scammer's link, or you'll end up going to a website where they'll ask you information about when you purchased the product, what's your credit card number, that kind of information, which of course they're going to use to steal something from you," Harwood said.

He said online-shopping complaints are up this year because people are using the internet more for purchases due to the pandemic. Compared with 2019, complaints were almost double through the first nine months of 2020.

Carmel Perez Snyder, director of education and outreach at AARP Oregon, said one scam popping up this month involves a person calling saying they are from Amazon and that you owe $799.

"If you get a call from Amazon that says you have an outstanding balance, hang up and then you yourself look on your website and you call that number that Amazon provides you as a customer," Snyder said. "And generally the customer service will tell you that it's a scam."

Snyder also said if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Harwood suggests there's one preferred way to pay for gifts.

"When you do make purchases, the best strategy is to use a credit card," he said. "You have more dispute rights, you have more opportunity to protect yourself and correct a mis-charge or an incorrect charge or a false charge."

People who find scams or are victims can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. They can also report them to the AARP Fraud Watch Network, which tracks scams across the country.

Disclosure: AARP Oregon contributes to our fund for reporting on Consumer Issues, Health Issues, Livable Wages/Working Families, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR