With Thanksgiving over, the official holiday shopping season is here. This year, many people are expected to do most of their shopping online because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Before you get too far down your shopping list, the experts at AARP ElderWatch, which is a program with the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, want to make sure you are aware of possible fraud this holiday season. The experts say they have been seeing more retail scams recently involving fraudsters putting up fake websites to take advantage of the influx in online shopping.
First, be careful when it comes to buying items you see featured in advertisements on Facebook, Instagram and other social media sites. AARP ElderWatch says you should research the companies to make sure they’re legitimate.
“A lot of people either are not getting the products that they are ordering or they’re getting something they’re unhappy with, so it’s really important to take one extra step,” said Mark Fetterhoff, the program manager for AARP ElderWatch.
Also, make sure you read reviews and do price comparisons if a similar product is available for sale on other websites. If the price being offered seems too good to be true, it probably is.
If you do plan to buy something online, AARP ElderWatch recommends against using a debit card or wire transfer. Instead, always use your credit card.
“You’re not using your own money in those situations, so it’s an important step that people take, especially if you’re using a retailer you’re not sure about,” Fetterhoff said.
He also suggests people avoid using mobile payment service apps when you’re paying someone you don’t know.
“Be very conscious about using those types of payment methods,” Fetterhoff said. “They should only be used really for when you’re paying someone who you know directly.”
It’s also important to consider where you do your online shopping. AARP ElderWatch said people should make sure they’re using a secure website that has “https” in the web address at the top of the screen and a lock box icon to the left of the web address. Those are indications that the website is protected.
The experts also recommend never using free public Wi-Fi to do your online shopping. When you’re entering your credit card or banking information, make sure you’re on a network that only you know the password for.
Remember, you can always report scams, fraud and price gouging to the Colorado Attorney General’s Office. The consumer hotline number is 800-222-4444. If you want to speak with someone from AARP ElderWatch, call the same number, and select option 2. That helpline is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can also visit www.aarpelderwatch.org for more information.
You can hear more from the experts at AARP ElderWatch every Friday on 11 News at Noon as part of ‘Fraud Friday.’ This segment will air on 11 News every Friday through the end of the year.