Scams are on the rise during the holidays. Here's a guide on how to avoid them. Photo: ART_Photo_DN

This article is part of News is Out’s Caring for Community series, which is focused on the challenges and triumphs of giving and receiving care in the LGBTQ+ community. These stories have been created through a strategic partnership.

Three-quarters of American consumers say they have experienced or been targeted by fraud related to the holidays, according to a new AARP survey. Recipients noted that holiday scams took many forms for them, including online ads, requests for end-of-year charitable donations, and receiving fake notifications about shipping issues.

Charitable giving, in particular, is a major source of funds for criminals. In 2022, more than $3 billion was given to charities on Giving Tuesday alone. Helping accelerate this trend is our charitable nature, which may be why more than half of individuals do not always research an organization before making a donation.

“You’re going to get more calls, emails and texts this time of year,” says Kathy Stokes, AARP’s Director of Fraud Prevention Programs, Fraud Watch Network. “But you may get just as many that are scams. And these criminals are so good at what they do, it can be hard to tell the difference.”

Americans are also seeing increases in online romance scams, including those through social apps. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received some 56,000 complaints about romance scams in 2021, more than triple the 2017 total, and reported monetary losses from such crime jumped sixfold over the same period, to $547 million.

How to protect yourself:

·      Rather than clicking on a link from an email or text, go to your web browser and type in the company’s web address purportedly offering said great deal.

·      Pay by credit card. This way, you can dispute charges and limit the damage if the transaction was fraudulent.

·      Buy gift cards online directly from the issuing business instead of from a retail rack, where the cards can be tampered with. When receiving a gift card as a present, register it if that’s an option, and use it sooner rather than later. 

·      Avoid conducting any business online (making a purchase, donating, accessing password-protected sites) while using a public Wi-Fi network unless you employ a virtual private network (VPN).

·      Pushy charities could be an indicator that the cause is bogus; legitimate charities will accept your donations on your timeline.

·      Anytime you are prompted to make a purchase or a donation by wire transfer or gift card, it is a scam.

More Resources

Charity Navigator, CharityWatch and GuideStar provide resources on charitable organizations, including ratings, reviews and financial information.

If you lose money to a holiday or any other type of scam, file a police report. You may also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (online or at 877-382-4357) or your state attorney general and consumer protection office.

John-Paul Hayworth is the LGBTQ+ Audience Strategy Director at AARP.