Sharlyn Tincler from Shawnee received an email regarding her Amazon account. It wasn’t the first email she received and it probably won’t be the last. This particular email contained a suspicious link that she did not click wisely.
“I get emails about my ‘Amazon’ all the time. Amazon said they won’t send emails like this and won’t call out of the blue. That’s why I check messages on my account, ”she said.
Barbara Brockhaus of Oklahoma City received a suspicious email from “Paypal” suggesting that her account had been hacked.
“I just got an email saying my PayPal account had been used for an unauthorized purchase, and if I called them or clicked on the link, they would take care of it. I’m smarter than that, ”she said.
Enid’s Sheryl Logan said she was also bombarded with phishing and scam text messages all the time. She can list them easily and is so used to scam attempts that she doesn’t even notice them anymore.
“I get them all the time from fake AT&T, IRS, and Social Security,” she said. “I even had one a few months ago claiming to be from DHL and saying that something I bought couldn’t be shipped. Yes, I didn’t buy anything.
Unfortunately, they are not alone. According to a recent survey released by the AARP Fraud Watch Network, many Oklahoma residents are at risk of fraud when shopping this holiday season. According to the survey results, the most common scams over the holidays include online shopping scams involving gift cards and shipping scams.
The numbers are not optimistic. Seventy-eight percent of Oklahoma residents surveyed have been the target of at least one form of fraud or have been the victim of at least one form of fraud in the past, 38% said they received a request donation money to a charity they believe to be bogus or fraudulent, and 35% of Oklahoma residents have received a bogus notification about a shipping issue.
As con artists get more sophisticated and the holiday season is in full swing, consumer fraud continues to be a major source of irritation and concern for Oklahoma residents.
The holiday scam season
The holiday season is a prime time to be a target for scams, as 71% of Oklahoma residents will be using their debit cards this holiday season. While credit cards and digital wallets are safer online, 61% of Oklahoma residents plan to buy gift cards as a holiday gift, and 60% buy gift cards in-store. According to the AARP, crooks are known to forge ready-made cards.
Scams, however, aren’t limited to holiday shopping. They happen all the time.
“Fraudulent calls / scams are already very common and generally become more common during the holidays. Automated calls have multiplied. In an effort to combat these intrusions, our office recently joined with the attorneys general of all 50 states in urging the FCC to take additional steps to prevent robocallers from concealing their identities, among others, ”said Rachel Roberts, communications director for the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office.
Being a victim of a scam often results in a simple loss of money, but more sophisticated scams target consumers’ personal information such as social security number, date of birth, account numbers and passwords. , credit history, etc.
“Once the crooks get their hands on this information, they can use it to open new accounts in the victim’s name with potentially devastating effects on the victim’s credit,” Roberts said.
Even those familiar with scam calls can fall victim to it, especially with the use of technology designed to help consumers send money quickly and easily. The AARP study found that 53% of Oklahomans intend to use peer-to-peer apps like Venmo, Zelle, or Cash App to send money, and 46% of P2P users have sent money to someone they don’t know well, which they don’t. advised.
“Unfortunately, the process of giving gifts, from buying the perfect gift to ensuring that it reaches the recipient, also offers fraudsters many opportunities to get rich,” said Sean Voskuhl, director of the ‘AARP Oklahoma State.
The survey results also show that many Oklahoma residents don’t know how to shop safely online. For example, only 37% know that P2P applications do not offer the same protections to consumers as a credit card, and only 40% know that using a credit card offers better protection than using a credit card. a debit card.
“I can tell you that over the holiday season we’re gearing up to head into one of the scam highlights of the year. People are busy and distracted, and it’s often a perfect opportunity for cybercriminals to strike, ”said Kyle Lankford, Cybersecurity Communications for Inspire Brands. “Right now we’re getting ready to go shopping with people looking to buy gifts and look for deals on things. This is the perfect opportunity to get ripped off.
Phishing and smishing
The most common email scams, which ask recipients to click on a link that could lead to malware, are called “phishing,” while text messages with damaging links are called “smishing,” said Lankford, which fights against cybersecurity at the national level. level business.
One of the most common scams involves a text message regarding problems with the delivery of a package.
“It’s a scam text. There may be legitimate notifications regarding your delivery, but if you don’t wait for delivery, don’t click on them. If you are expecting a delivery and need to check the status, instead of clicking on the text, go to the shippers website or the company you bought it from and enter your information directly there, said Lankford.
While many say they don’t fall for such scams, Lankford warns that scammers are getting better at stealing information and money. If the scams didn’t work, the crooks would stop sending them over and over again.
“Scammers are getting better and better at fooling people. They become more and more personal and use more specific information that they think the potential victim will fall for, ”Lankford said.
Gift card scams are also a common trap. Gift cards should be treated like money, experts say, and if a person is asked to pay for something by putting money on a gift card and sharing the numbers on the back of the card, it it is probably a scam.
How to fight crooks
To help consumers avoid being victimized, the AARP report also includes suggested precautions for consumers to protect their money and identity, including:
• Consider alternatives to door-to-door parcel delivery – see if the carrier can keep the packages at their nearest location or ask the carrier to place the packages in a location not easily visible from the street.
• Keep device operating systems and anti-virus programs up to date. Recognize that online advertisements of amazing sales or options too good to be true probably shouldn’t be believed.
• When purchasing gift cards, order online directly from the issuer, whether it is a direct retailer, restaurant or other entity. Scammers can forge gift cards available on the shelves of freely accessible stores.
• If you are unfamiliar with the person or business, do not use P2P apps like Cash App, Zelle, and Venmo to make purchases.
• Avoid using debit cards online; credit cards offer better protection in the event of fraud.
Victims of scams should contact their bank and / or credit card company as soon as possible to report a scam and possibly stop payment. Oklahomans can also contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit to file a consumer complaint.