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Scams on the Rise in the Holiday Season

Email links could be phishing scams so itís best to enter store web addresses directly. (StockSnap/Pixabay)
Email links could be phishing scams so itís best to enter store web addresses directly. (StockSnap/Pixabay)
December 14, 2017

HARRISBURG, Penn. -- Holiday shopping is in full swing and so are shopping scams, but there are ways you can protect yourself.

The basic rule of defensive shopping is: if the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Mary Bach, chair of AARP's Consumer Issues Task Force, cautions that some retail stores still try the classic "bait-and-switch," advertising an item at a good price, then selling a more expensive substitute, or simply charging more at the register.

"Make sure that you are charged the price that was advertised or the price that was promised,” Bach said, "because there are too many of those so-called mistakes in the marketplace these days."

She recommends bringing advertisements with you and always checking your receipt. AARP maintains a free Fraud Watch Network to help consumers of all ages guard against identity theft and scams.

Shopping for a gift card? Bach said scammers may go into a store, copy or photograph the numbers of all the cards in a rack, then just wait for those cards to be activated when they're purchased.

"They can use those gift cards, and the unsuspecting gift giver and gift receiver does not even know that that card is now worthless,” she said.

She said It's safer to buy gift cards directly from the store clerk, and ask them to scan the card to confirm its value.

With so much shopping being done online, it's important to be careful about offers received by email. Some may take you to fake websites that steal your credit card information. So Bach suggests consumers never click on an unfamiliar link.

"Always go directly to the store website and you make sure that it says ‘https' in the address of the particular website,” she said.

More than 90 percent of consumers say they are aware that thieves create spoofed websites, but 2-in-5 have fallen victim to online phishing attacks.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA