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Survey Warns Hoosiers of Common Holiday Tricks

A new scam targeting holiday shoppers can deplete funds off gift cards the moment the card is activated. Credit: Tales of a Wandering Youkai/Flickr.
A new scam targeting holiday shoppers can deplete funds off gift cards the moment the card is activated. Credit: Tales of a Wandering Youkai/Flickr.
November 17, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS – The holidays are a time of giving, but a new survey finds many Indiana residents are engaging in risky behavior that could compromise their personal information or bank account.

According to a new survey from AARP, 70 percent of respondents failed a quiz about how to stay safe from common holiday scams. Fifty-eight percent expected to purchase a gift card from a store rack, which AARP Indiana president Joseph Everett says are the target of a newer trick.

"Thieves write down or scan the numbers off cards, then check online to see if someone has bought the card and activated it." he says. "As soon as the card is active, the scammers actually go in and drain the funds off the card. By the time you try to use it, the money is gone."

Everett explains it is best to purchase gift cards online. Caution is also advised with debit cards. According to the survey, almost two-thirds of shoppers will buy gifts this year with a debit card, but Everett says a credit card provides better protection from fraud and theft.

According to Everett, charitable giving scams are also becoming more common. The survey found most people who donated to a charity or fundraiser in the past 12 months did not ask questions about where exactly their money was going.

"Hoosiers, you know, we're 'giving' people, so we need to make sure our money is going to legitimate charities where we want it to go," he says. "When you're out there giving there's a lot of good resources where you can check the validity of a charity."

Those resources include the Charity Tracker website at CharityTracker.com, or the Indiana Attorney General's Office.

The survey also examined the impact of holiday stress, with 65 percent of respondents reporting at least one stressful event in the past six months. When people are busy and feeling overwhelmed, Everett says scams are tougher to spot.

"When you're under that stressful type of situation, that's when you get a little loose with giving out information," he says. "Scammers are good at that. They engage you in a conversation. They find that sweet spot where you then begin to just give out information and they take advantage."

Everett encourages Hoosiers to brush up on their knowledge of the latest scams, and learn more at the AARP Fraud Watch Network page.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IN