Don’t let fraud or identity theft ruin your holiday season. There are a variety of ways scammers can take advantage of goodwill during the holidays – and often, these scams target older adults. To safeguard against financial crimes this holiday season, the Better Business Bureau offers these timely tips for older adults and their caregivers.
• Be cautious with charitable giving. The holiday season is one of busiest times of the year for charitable organizations to solicit contributions. Before giving, ask questions of the charity and do not contribute until you are satisfied with the answers. Be wary of an organization’s reluctance to provide answers about revenue, expenses, programs and services. Always give by check or credit card, and make the checks payable to the charity, not the individual collecting the donation. Finally, before giving to any charity, check out the organization with the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. Find reports on national charitable organizations at www.bbb.org/charity. To access reports on local charities, go to www.atlanta.bbb.org or call 404-766-0875.
• Use direct deposit. Your mail – both incoming and outgoing – can be vulnerable, especially during the holidays when criminal activity is heightened. If your Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) check is delivered by mail to an unlocked mailbox, your check could be stolen and forged. Direct deposit eliminates the risk of lost or stolen checks, reduces fraud and gives people faster access to their money on payment day. Direct deposit also protects against identity theft. For more information about enrolling in direct deposit of your Social Security or SSI payment, call the Go Direct helpline at (800) 333-1795 or sign-up online at www.GoDirect.org.
• Don’t fall victim to financial scams. The holidays mean family, friends, and, often, more expenses due to holiday giving. Thieves may try to offer seniors an easy way to make some extra money through fake check scams. These scams have common patterns – scammers contact victims through the mail or online and send them realistic-looking checks or money orders. The scammers then ask for some portion of the money to be wired back to them. The problem: it may take weeks for your bank to discover the check or money order is a fake, and when the bank wants its money back – you’re financially responsible. Some popular scams involve foreign business offers, rental schemes and work-at-home offers. To learn more about fake check scams and to report fraudulent activity, go to www.FakeChecks.org.
• Arm yourself with information. The BBB offers safe shopping advice and other helpful tips at www.bbb.org. When in doubt, always check things out. Consult with trusted family members, friends or neighbors before making a major purchase or check with the BBB for consumer tips and alerts.