Beware of Holiday Scams

It’s that time of year when, filled with the spirit of the season, older adults may let down their guard and fall prey to classic scams tweaked for the holidays to pull at the heartstrings of parents and grandparents. Holiday scams are ramping up and many are aimed at older people who may be more likely to fall for scammers that claim to be representing a charity or even a grandchild asking for money to come home for the holidays.

Elderly adults who fear admitting they might be losing some of their memory will sometimes go along with scammers who feign a personal connection that doesn’t exist.  Rather than tell a trusted family member and risk losing their independence, seniors may agree to financial transactions they would not normally conduct. A common scam of late involves iTunes cards, which scammers claiming to be with the IRS ask to be used as payment for back taxes.  The IRS or any other government agency would never ask for payment over the phone, by wiring money and certainly not with iTunes or any other gift or other re-loadable card.

If you or a family member wants to make a charitable donation near the holidays, look for something in the mail or follow up phone requests by calling the organization and verifying they have solicited a donation.

Tips to Prevent Fraud

  • Always ask for written material before making a donation and never write down a credit card number on any form.
  • Never agree to any financial transaction that must be done in secrecy.
  • If a request for money sounds even just a little suspicious, take your time to do research or ask a trusted friend or family member for their advice.
  • Be wary of free trials which can turn quickly into a monthly subscription without warning.
  • Do not deposit checks from unknown sources and wire money back.  A fake check can take weeks to uncover and the bank will usually hold the account owner responsible.
  • Much of financial elder abuse is perpetrated by a family member and often happens when a senior becomes socially isolated. By maintaining social contacts, seniors are less likely to exploited.

To learn more about how to protect yourself from scams visit the Federal Trade Commission website at  or in Canada visit the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada website by following this link.