AARP AARP States Pennsylvania Scams & Fraud

‘Tis the Season of Giving But Con Artists are Taking

As people gears up for the holiday festivities, scammers are taking advantage of the season to rob people of more than just holiday cheer.

For scammers, the holidays are the prime time to prey on shoppers. Don’t make their holidays happy. Learn how to protect yourself from holiday scammers and check out nine helpful tips right here:


  1. Beware of travel scams. The holidays are a time to travel – whether to escape the cold or see distant family, but some cons will tempt you with free cruises or airline tickets that require you to provide personal or financial information. Stick to vendors that you know instead.
  2. Download with care. As much as we love electronic greeting cards – I mean, when else can you send a moving and singing card to your loved ones? –make sure you are not unknowingly downloading malware. Getting holiday themed music, screen savers and backgrounds can also lead to viruses.
  3. Tread lightly on social media. Some of your favorite sites may offer a “Year in Review” feature and while it can be good to reminisce, be cautious of corrupt links. Hovering over URL’s before clicking on a new website may save you from a scam, because it allows you to take a glimpse at what site you would be redirected to. It may also be beneficial to type in web addresses on your own, as some scammers will add or take away letters and numbers from the sites that you know and love.
  4. Be careful about what you write in pen. Even writing letters can put you at risk! In some places, writing letters to Santa is a holiday tradition, but there have been scams that ask parents to pay money for letters from Santa in return. Some scams don’t request money, but will ask for personal information that could lead to identity theft. Play it safe this year, and have your children or grandchildren write their own letters to the man in the Big Red Suit.
  5. Keep your eyes peeled for gift card cons. When purchasing gift cards, make sure to purchase from counter attendants or from customer service. Thieves will copy the codes on cards and call after the holidays (when they know they will be activated) and use them before the intended recipient gets a chance to. Grabbing a card from an unattended sales rack increases the chances of having this happen to you.
  6. Delivery drama. Since people like to send care packages and ship presents, the holidays are a great time for courier services. However, proceed with caution when receiving links to discounted shipping, as links can be corrupted and end up causing you computer trouble, instead of saving you a dollar or two.
  7. Pay attention to false freebie offers. While everyone’s ears perk up at the sound of the word “free”, it is not always wise to provide sensitive information to websites or emails in exchange for free products or services. This can be the cause of malware or even identity theft.
  8. Cash before credit cards. Some cons will use credit card scanners to get your credit card data. If you don’t catch false charges in enough time, you may still have to pay for the charges on your card. When using cash, the chances of this happening decrease dramatically.


Being cautious when taking action online or in stores this season can save you from having to deal with scammers for the rest of the year. AARP’s Fraud Watch Network can also help. Sign up for Watch Dog Alerts to receive email alerts that will provide you with more handy fraud tips like the ones listed above.

Learn more about holiday scams here.

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