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Scam-avoidance warning fatigue mounts during holidays

Артем Барынин
Adobe Stock

Holiday shoppers in Wisconsin and elsewhere are starting to face a time crunch in wrapping up their gift lists. As they rush to the stores or sift through online platforms, fraud experts warn about ignoring red flags for scams.

This time of year is associated with warnings about fraud scenarios such as porch pirates, who steal items ordered online from outside a person's home.

Courtney Anclam, senior program specialist for AARP Wisconsin, said even if you think you've heard of everything, scammers are always adding a twist to stay ahead of the game so they can catch consumers off guard.

"Especially around the holidays, we see them taking advantage of stuff," Anclam pointed out. "People want to give to charities, people are ordering stuff online more often, people are giving gift cards."

An emerging gift-card scam involves thieves going into stores and discreetly manipulating cards on kiosks. After the card is purchased by a customer, the scammer is notified and uses a computer program to transfer the money before the card is used by its intended recipient. Experts suggest avoiding picking up the top gift card right off the rack.

December is a time when people are feeling more generous. When it comes to charitable giving, Anclam noted scammers often try to appeal to a person's good nature, whether it is the holiday season or when tragedy strikes.

"A lot of the times they can follow the headlines and just say, 'Hey, we're reaching out because we heard about this disaster in Wisconsin,' or something like that sounds like it's new, it's fresh," Anclam explained. "But it's the same scam underneath it."

She urged before you donate money, it is safer to research the group through websites such as Charity Navigator.

As for shopping, experts emphasized scams involving online deliveries continue to evolve, including getting a phony text with a dangerous link indicating something went wrong with an order which was never even placed. If you get such a message, you're urged not to click on the link but instead contact the delivery company.

A range of tips can be found online through AARP's FraudWatch Network.

Mike Moen is the Morning Edition producer and serves as a staff reporter for WNIJ. Every morning, he works with Dan Klefstad to bring listeners the latest Illinois news. He also works with the rest of the news staff on developing and producing in-depth stories. Mike is a Minnesota native who likes movies, history, and baseball. When most people hear his last name, they assume he is 100-percent Scandinavian. But, believe it or not, he is mostly German.
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