AARP AARP States Idaho

Popular Scams this Month in Idaho (and how to avoid them)

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Naylor, Robert B

The usual holiday traditions might change a bit this year as Idahoans find a balance between celebrating with loved ones and staying safe. But one tradition isn’t going anywhere, as cybercrooks and scammers cook up their annual schemes to exploit our holiday habits.

Here are a few things floating around the Gem State to keep an eye on.

Making Your Home Cyber Secure

With nine in ten U.S. adults online these days for work, finances, shopping or entertainment, criminals have many opportunities to steal money or sensitive personal information. When you factor in the many devices in our homes linked to the internet – computers, gaming systems, TVs, smartphones - the opportunities grow.

To keep your home network safe from criminals, follow these three home security rules. Keep the operating systems, web browsers and security software on all of your connected devices updated.  If your internet router has the same name and password it came with, change both. . And engage your firewall – your operating system or antivirus software should come with a firewall that guards your system from uninvited sources; make sure yours is turned on. Be a fraud fighter!  If you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam.

Facebook Marketplace

The holidays are getting close and many of us are looking for those last minute deals. One place people are turning to is Facebook Marketplace, but beware because scammers are lurking. The spike in online shopping has unfortunately lead many victims right to the criminals who offer deals too good to pass up.

This fall, the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline has received a high volume of calls from people losing money to scams on Facebook Marketplace. Here are some tips to avoid online sales scams. Before making that purchase research what similar items are selling for elsewhere, the greater the deal the greater the likelihood that it could be a scam. Buy local versus having something shipped, and arrange to meet in a public space. Pay cash – if asked to pay by a payment app, wire transfer or gift card, refuse. Finally, if you need to get an item shipped, use a credit card which has fraud protections.

Gift Card Scams

According to a recent AARP survey, more than 2/3 of US consumers will purchase a gift card for someone this holiday season. While these gifts are easy to give and popular to get, they are also open to fraud. The same survey found that one in three people have either given or received a gift card with no funds on it. Remember these tips whenever buying gift cards.

If buying from a store rack, inspect the card before purchase to make sure that the packaging hasn’t been tampered with and that the code hasn’t been revealed. Better yet, buy gift cards online directly from the retailer, restaurant or other issuer. Be wary of buying from gift card resellers- if you do, make sure they offer a guarantee.

Peer to Peer Payment Apps

In the time of COVID peer-to-peer payment apps have become more popular than ever. According to a recent AARP survey on online holiday shopping, more than half of US adults plan to use a peer-to-peer payment app for gift purchases. It’s important to know that some apps are safer than others.

PayPal, for example, is set up for users to make purchases with businesses where it’s offered. But other popular payment apps like Venmo, Zelle and Cash App, are intended for use among friends and family – to split a dinner bill or pay the babysitter. Fraud losses using these apps to pay for a product that never comes are generally not recoverable. To protect your assets remember that that the old fashioned ways of using cash or a credit card, which comes with fraud protections, are still your best bets.

COVID Health Scams

2020 has been one for the record books and it looks like we will end it in much the way we spent it – trying to beat back the virus. One thing to remember is that while most of us are trying to keep our loved ones safe, scammers are trying to make things worse. During 2020 more than a quarter million people have fallen victim to COVID related scams, many promising miracle cures, test kits or vaccines.

Remember whenever the virus is spreading, tests are hard to come by or a vaccine is close scammers will be lurking. Look to your health care provider or state and local health department for information on the virus, testing or vaccine availability and never give out your health care account numbers or personal financial information to people you don’t already know and trust.

Be a fraud fighter!  If you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam. 

Check out these local resources from the Idaho Scam Jam Alliance and for help from AARP, call
1-877-908-3360 or visit the AARP Fraud Watch Network at www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork.

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