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AARP warns Pennsylvanians of spike in holiday fraud, scams

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Monday, December 4, 2023   

The holiday shopping season is already in full swing, and AARP Pennsylvania has some tips on how to avoid becoming a victim of fraud or identity theft.

The latest AARP study found 76%, or roughly three out of four U.S. adults age 18 and older, have been targeted by at least one form of fraud.

Associate State Director David Kalinoski at AARP Pennsylvania said the most common scams are related to online shopping, empty gift cards and package delivery.

"Sometimes criminals go into stores and scratch off the strips on the back of the gift card," said Kalinoski. "They get the PIN number and then return it to the store racks. And once the card is loaded, scammers drain the funds because they have technology that can instantaneously let somebody know when that gift card was activated."

Kalinoski said they recommend purchasing gift cards directly from the card issuer's website.

He adds that to receive timely updates on the latest scams and fraud schemes, Pennsylvania residents can enroll in bi-weekly fraud alerts via text messaging.

Simply text the abbreviation FWN (which stands for Fraud Watch Network) to the number 50757.

Kalinoski said the AARP Fraud Watch Network offers free resources that help individual identify and prevent fraud, including educational materials and helpline assistance.

He said AARP's tracking map reveals active scams across the country.

Pennsylvanians can use their ZIP code to pinpoint specific scams in their area.

"The other thing that's with the Fraud Watch Network is the ability for people to post when they've been sort of targeted by a fraud or scam," said Kalinoski. "They can go online and post on our scam tracking map, something that other individuals should watch out for."

He warned folks to be aware of social media scams with fake product ads that lead to non-delivery of items.

He recommended not to click in messages and ads, even if the retailer appears familiar, because scammers can create fake websites that look real.

"Instead, take the extra step to open up your web browser and type in a known retailer's web address into that," said Kalinoski. "And then you can go directly to that, and if that's verified by what you've received in a pop-up ad, then you know it might be legitimate."

Kalinoski said if you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam. He pointed out the importance of filing a police report if you've been scammed.

He also encouraged victims to report the incident without shame.

Various agencies, including the FBI, Federal Trade Commission, and Better Business Bureau, handle scam reports.

Disclosure: AARP Pennsylvania contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Consumer Issues, Livable Wages/Working Families, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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