Stay Alert for Scams This Giving Season

As people try to process the news of another tragic loss of young life while staying calm and positive this holiday season, it’s important to remember the good and kindness in the world.  But while we look for ways to spread comfort and joy to those around us, it’s wise to remember that the holiday season also brings out fraudsters who capitalize on a giving spirit to scam people out of their savings.  

Older adults often fall prey to scams like the “grandchild in trouble” scheme.  Fraudsters will pose as a grandchild who needs money to get them out of a jam.  A quick way for grandparents to check that the person requesting cash is indeed their grandchild is to ask for them to verify their (or your) birthdate or ask them another question that only a family member would know. Grandparents can also avoid this scam by telling the caller they will call them right back and call the number they have for the child, or their parents. 

The holidays are also a time when older adults may be traveling to visit family.  While away, it’s a good idea to keep lights on a timer, let neighbors know when you will be away, and arrange for the driveway and sidewalk to be shoveled.  Avoid posting any travel information on social media that could alert thieves that nobody is home – wait until you return to post any photos of your trip. 

Online holiday shopping scams are also common this time of year and it’s important to be wary of “too good to be true” deals that may be fake or lead to an account breach.  Signs of fraud can include typos, lack of customer reviews, or rewards that include gift cards.  Watch out for messages that indicate “there is a problem with your payment” that includes a link and asks you to provide your information a second time.  Avoid clicking on links and sharing any bank or credit card information. 

Once the holidays are over, don’t advertise any new purchases on garbage day with empty boxes in plain sight.  Break down any boxes for recycling rather than letting everyone who passes know what Santa brought the people in your home. 

Charity fraud is unfortunately also common this time of year.  Donors can verify a charity is legitimate by checking with the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance or CharityWatch online.  

In these confusing and frightening times, we may wonder what we can do to contribute to healing and positive change.  Caring for others, and taking time for self-care can help us cope and lift our spirits.  Grandparents can help younger generations by modeling sincere and genuine generosity, caring, and compassion.   Doing good for others helps create a sense of community and hope, two things we need more than ever.