Today’s the day for 5-year-old Maya’s Grammy to get serious about her holiday shopping. 71-year-old Jeanette has her list at the ready for the toys and clothes she wants to buy for Maya and her six other grandchildren. The car is in the driveway, her coat is hanging by the door, and her purse is on the hall table. This holiday season, however, she is staying in her slippers and brewing another cup of coffee, opening her laptop, and accomplishing all her shopping online from the comfort of her home. Jeanette is joining the growing number of older adults who have embraced technology, adopted broadband devices, and are making this holiday easier by shopping online. Forget the traffic jams, parking challenges and crowds!

While there are some who still embrace a trip to the mall and the brick-and-mortar stores, many older adults have also recognized the tremendous benefits of shopping online. There are daily discounts, flash sales online, and it’s all from the warm, comfort of home. Is the mantra still shop ‘til you drop? Yes, but now it’s from cramped fingers and eye strain!  

Online sales in the U.S. should reach $209.7 billion during this year’s holiday season, an increase of2.5% over 2021, according to a report released this fall by Adobe.

With so many consumers online, it is critical that the online holiday shopping experience is safe and secure for all, particularly older adults. The 65+ community continues to embrace technology, having accelerated the incorporation of services and devices at a rapid pace during the early pandemic years that continues today. The benefits of online shopping for older adults are significant. However, the ongoing incidences of online fraud and scams continue to raise concerns for seniors

There are a number of online scams customers need to steer clear of when shopping online, particularly during the busy holiday season. Fortunately for consumers, online merchants, national consumer organizations, and federal government agencies are tuned in to these scams and are working to help protect consumers with tips and tools during this holiday shopping season.  

Here are a few of the latest online shopping scams to be aware of this holiday season, followed bysome general tips for online shopping that are a useful practice all year long.

Impersonation Scams: These scams are at an all-time high this holiday season, with emails, texts, and other communications sent to consumers that appear to come from a company you’ve done business with, but they’re not.  Be wary of unsolicited communications that may ask for your information because your account is going to be “closed or locked,” a “delivery is lost or delayed,” or other issue.  The communication may appear to be from your trusted merchant, but if you look closely at the actual email address, you will likely notice that it’s from a different address or that there is misspelling in the address.  These “impersonation”scams are trying to get you to reply and send personal information, such as your social security number, credit card number, or financial account information.  

To address this concern, the Better Business Bureau partnered with Amazon to help consumers avoid impersonation scams this holiday season. Learn more here: Better Business Bureau

Charity Scams, Coupon Scams, and Gift Card Resale Scams:  While not unique to the holidays, these scams see an uptick during the holiday season when millions of consumers are online purchasing gifts and hoping to save on their holiday expenses. Check-out the National Consumers League website for greater detail on these scams:  

Online Merchandise Scams:  The holidays accelerate the opportunity for fraudsters to entice unsuspecting shoppers to make purchases of fake or counterfeit goods. Scammers may advertise an item online that looks like a designer or high-end tech product, but what the customer receives is either a cheap imitation or nothing at all!   It is important for consumers to be informed and extra vigilant during the holiday season to avoid fraud and scams. At the same time, online merchants have been vigilant in their efforts to weed-out counterfeit products and illegitimate vendors from their sites.

Year-round Solutions for Families and Particularly Older Adults to Engage in E-Commerce with Tips to Stay Safe:

1) Always use a trusted online shopping “store” for your purchases and beware of phony online shopping sites that often reside on social media sites and may offer enticing prices.

Beware of phony online shopping sites and check out any unfamiliar stores with the Better Business Bureau. Consider trusted online stores like Amazon, which offers an A-to-z Guarantee for items purchased on their site that can help resolve issues with third-party vendors.

2) It’s best to use a credit card for your purchases.

If you purchase an item on your credit card, you can always then dispute that charge. Federal law limits liability to$50 if there’s an unauthorized charge to your account, and if you report it to your credit card company as soon as you discover it, they often will remove it entirely.

3) Always be sure you’re on a secure site when entering financial information during the purchasing process.

Always make sure you’re on a secure site before entering financial or other sensitive information. Look for the address bar “http” to shift to “https” when asked to input financial information, such as a credit card number. This indicates it will be transmitted securely.

4) Protect your privacy and security.

Engage the privacy settings, “cookies” choices, and clear your history on a regular basis to avoid unwanted marketing from companies.

5) Watch out for online “impersonation scams” that can target older adults.

Scammers use email, phone calls, or text messages that look like they’re from an organization you know or trust, such as your bank, credit card company, or an online store. The outreach may request your personal information, such as a log-in or Social Security number to verify your account or ask that you update your credit card payment. Then scammers use that information to steal your personal and financial information.

To avoid an impersonation scam, carefully check the email address to see if it’s from the company (the email address is often incorrect or is off by a letter or two). Some companies have implemented email verification technology to make it easier to identify legitimate emails. For example, if customers see the ‘Smile’ logo next to emails coming from an sender, that will indicate that the email came from Amazon – not a scammer.

Click here to see if your email provider supports this technology. A dose of healthy skepticism is in order if you receive any unsolicited emails asking for your personal and/or financial information.

6) Keep this adage in mind: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is!

Be careful of unsolicited email come-ons and special deals that ask you to “click here.” They can take you to illegitimate sellers or scams.

7) Report any scams or fraud that you experience online.

The Better Business Bureau has teamed-up with Amazon and Capital One to help inform consumers about scams and report them with the BBB Scam Tracker, an online reporting tool. The tracker makes it easier for consumers to get information on scams, as well as report them.

Consumers can also report fraud and scams with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC): Report a Fraud, Scam, or Problem.

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