Online shoppers: 'Use a credit card' for best scam protection

Between Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, holiday shopping changes amid the coronavirus pandemic have pushed more consumers online, and crooks are counting on that this season.

Gone are the days of packed stores. Instead, the pandemic has lessened the number of customers inside and pushed others to shop online, and while many of us are searching for deals, scammers are also looking to cash in this Christmas.

Amy Nofziger

"They are creating fake websites, sending out bogus text messages, emails, even placing fake ads on social media all to lure us in," said Amy Nofziger, the director of fraud victims' support for AARP Fraud Watch Network.

She says this holiday season, we all have a target on our backs. 

AARP Fraud Watch Network

"That’s why learning the red flags are so important," she said. "One of them is the bargain-basement prices. It might be a counterfeit item or even a ploy to steal your personal info or money."

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Next up, shoddy websites. 

"If you are on a website and seeing misspellings, bad grammar, bad graphics — walk away," said Nofziger. "Legitimate retailers take pride in their websites. Finally, anyone who asks for a nontraditional payment like a wire transfer, prepaid gift card, we're even, what we are seeing -- peer-to-peer apps like Cash App, Venmo and Zelle." 

Nofziger says once you send money in one of those apps, it's virtually untraceable.

"We really recommend using that to only family and friends -- not transfer money, to not to give money or buy something from a stranger," she said.

Just to be safe...

"I always recommend to use a credit card," said Nofziger. "You have stronger protection. Save the debit cards for the point-of-sale purchase."

AARP Fraud Watch Network

With nearly 8,000 people calling AARP’s Fraud Watch Network helpline every month because they are a victim or to report suspected scams, heeding a few tips can save you money and a headache this holiday season.

Fraud experts also say never search for a customer service phone number through a search engine. Always go directly to the site. They’ve recently yielded thousands of complaints about scammers posting fake customer service numbers to steal information.