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Tips for avoiding holiday shopping scams

Eric Galatas

(Colorado News Connection) With the holiday shopping season in full swing, criminals are seizing upon new online opportunities to separate consumers from their money.

Almost half of adults recently surveyed believe companies and customer-support numbers appearing as ads at the top of an online search can be trusted.

Mark Fetterhoff, program manager for AARP ElderWatch Colorado, countered many are just carefully-constructed traps.

"You need to be very careful when you are trying to contact a customer-service representative," Fetterhoff explained. "Because scammers are smart, and they are putting their phone numbers, and fake websites even, at the top of search-engine browser results."

Legitimate phone numbers can be found in your most recent correspondence with the company, such as a billing statement. If you suspect you are among the 75% of Americans who have fallen victim to scams, report it so others won't, by calling the Colorado Attorney General's Office toll-free at 1-800-222-4444.

Scammers are also taking advantage of the boom in home delivery during the pandemic. They send e-mails and texts posing as UPS or other delivery services, urging you to respond to a shipping problem. But Fetterhoff pointed out it is just a phishing expedition, designed to siphon off bank account and other personal information.

"The text messages are becoming even more common than they ever have been before," Fetterhoff observed. "So, if you receive a notification, and it's telling you something went wrong, think twice before clicking on anything, because it's likely not a shipper."

Coloradans planning to make donations also should be alert to schemes designed to capture money intended for your favorite nonprofit or charity, especially as end-of-year solicitations start to pour in.

"Sometimes scammers will take the names of different charities, to try to make money," Fetterhoff cautioned. "And it's really important that you do research just like any purchase you are going to make, to ensure that your hard-earned monies are going to charities that you want to support."