MONEY retirement planning

4 Ways to Protect Your Retirement Money From Scammers (and Your Future Self)

illustration of man on hammock
Chris Gash

Money smarts peak at age 53.

The good news: Through hard work, thrift, and wise choices, you’re set for retirement. The bad news: You might find it harder someday to make sound financial decisions. On average, money smarts peak at age 53, the Center for Retirement Research reported in 2010. The older you get, the greater your vulnerability to scams, unscrupulous advisers, or just poor judgment.

The stakes are high: Fraud victims 65 and older lost an average of $30,000, Allianz found last year. One in 10 lost more than $100,000.

Taking these measures now will help protect your finances, or those of a parent or other relative.

Make Investing Simpler

Have several IRAs and 401(k)s? Consolidate them for easier monitoring, says financial planner Carolyn McClanahan of Life Planning Partners in Jacksonville. Replace individual stocks and bonds with a handful of mutual funds or exchange-traded funds, which need less attention.

Keep only two credit cards, says McClanahan—one for everyday purchases, the other for automatic bill payments. Even mild impairment can make managing bills difficult; automation can head off late fees and service interruptions.

Assemble Defenders

A strong network of friends and family can thwart exploitation, says Sally Hurme, an elder-law attorney with AARP. Your circle can alert you if an investment or an adviser doesn’t seem right.

From this crew, pick a wingman who can make financial decisions for you when you’re not able—someone money-savvy, trustworthy, and ready to act in your best interest. Draft a power of attorney for finances that names this person and an alternate, in case your first choice can’t serve.

Married people often name their spouse as a protector, but Carolyn Rosenblatt, an elder-law attorney in San Rafael, Calif., advises picking someone younger. A person your age could become impaired at the same time you do, she says.

Open Up Your Finances

The more you share with your backup person, the easier it will be for her to spot missteps or bad advice, says Rosenblatt. Set up alerts with your financial institutions so you both get emails or texts about out-of-character transactions like an unusually large transfer. Use an app like Mint so she can see daily account activity. And give your doctors and financial adviser, if you have one, permission to contact your backup if they are concerned about your cognitive abilities.

Design a Money Blueprint

To help keep your investments on track, write up what’s known as an investment policy statement, says McClanahan. Spell out your goals, such as preservation of capital; what types of securities you’ll hold, like mutual funds; and how much of your portfolio, at different ages, is to be allocated to safe assets, such as cash, and to riskier assets like real estate. This document can help you resist sales pitches and the temptation to stray from a sound investment strategy.

Calculator: [time-calcxml id=ret03]

MONEY

Trump University Was A Scam, Say Former Students

Donald Trump Announces Trump University
Tama, Mario—Getty Images Donald Trump speaks during the establishment of Trump University in New York on May 23, 2005,

People say they paid $35,000 for next to nothing.

Do you remember Trump University? Probably not — it didn’t really catch on.

And one big reason it didn’t catch on is because it was a total scam, say a slew of former students in complaints that were filed to the Federal Trade Commission and were recently unearthed by a Freedom of Information Act recently requested by Gizmodo.

“For my $35,000+ all I got was books that I could have gotten from the library that could guide me better then Trump’s class did. I just want my $35,000+ money back. I feel embarrass[ed],” reads one complaint.

Another grievance describes a level-unlocking strategy reminiscent of Scientology. After paying $1,495 for a three-day seminar, which provided information freely available on Zillow, “attendees were told that unless they purchased additional products (software; individual coaching) they would not succeed,” the complaint states.

Another former “student,” who purchased the $34,995 “Gold Elite” package after the $1,495 seminar under the promise of mentorship, calls the program “an absolute, utter waste.”

It is not only former students who have called into question the legitimacy of Trump University, which was founded in 2005. The New York Department of Education sent Trump a letter in 2010, accusing the operation of misleading students and misuse of the word “university.” Soon thereafter, the operation was renamed the Trump Entrepreneur Initiative.

In 2013, the New York Attorney General’s office filed a $40 million lawsuit against the former reality star and current Republican presidential candidate for failing to impart the promised real estate education on 5,000 students and subjecting prospective students to high-pressure sales tactics. Naturally, Trump responded with his own complaint, accusing the attorney general of extorting him for campaign contributions. In April 2015, a judge ruled that Trump was indeed personally responsible and that the matter would go to trial. A class-action suit against Trump related to Trump University is also pending.

Nevertheless, Team Trump is still loudly trumpeting the legitimacy of the “university.” In a recent interview with National Review, Alan Garten, a Trump spokesperson said the New York Department of Education and prospective students “knew exactly what we were doing…and they were fine with it.”

Trump University aside, The Donald doesn’t always charge for his business insights. On Monday Trump offered free—albeit extremely obvious—advice about how to weather turmoil in the stock market.

MONEY Scams

Beware of Online Puppy Scams

538080445
Paul Park—Getty Images

A cute puppy can be an irresistible pawn.

Using the Internet to look at pictures of adorable puppies is a wonderful idea (says a writer who spends a lot of time looking at pictures of puppies). Using the Internet to buy adorable puppies is not such a wonderful idea, if that means you’re forking over money for a dog you haven’t seen in person.

In a society flooded with people trying to steal money from others, the puppy is a common (and cute) pawn. A woman in southeast Indiana learned this the hard way, after she saw a pug puppy advertised online for far less than what she saw breeders charging. She sent the seller funds to cover the costs of delivering the dog from another state, WCPO in Cincinnati reported.

The woman said someone in Missouri asked for $370 for a pug puppy, plus $120 for transport, and the seller instructed the woman to transfer the funds via MoneyGram, which totaled $511 after fees. When the dog didn’t arrive as scheduled, the seller said there had been problems and needed another $500 for insurance before sending the puppy, at which point the woman realized she had been deceived.

This is how a lot of scams go, regardless of what’s being sold. One of the best ways to avoid getting scammed is to deal locally and buy only things you can see for yourself. Scammers often ask for upfront payment via money transfer or prepaid card, and after you’ve done that, the seller either stops communicating or comes up with a reason to ask for more money (and vanishes after that).

Once you’ve sent the money, there’s usually little hope of recovering it. For people who were looking to save money with a supposedly great deal, this can be a financial hit that’s especially difficult to absorb, causing you to miss loan or bill payments and hurt your credit in the process. The most important thing you can do is avoid suspicious dealings in the first place. Here are some signs you might be dealing with a scammer, so you know what to look out for.

More From Credit.com:

MONEY

Consumer Complaints About This Troubling Scam Have Soared

Behold the year's top consumer complaints.

Identity theft was the fastest-growing consumer complaint in 2014, according to a joint annual report by the Consumer Federation of America and North American Consumer Protection Investigators. The list is based on more than 280,000 claims made to 37 consumer-protection agencies in 21 states last year.

Recent, large-scale data breaches at major retailers are at least partly to blame for the rapid rise of identity theft complaints. (It also was the top consumer gripe handled by the Federal Trade Commission last year, making up 13% of all complaints.)

Read next: 10 Funniest & Most Creative Consumer Complaints Ever

Consumer agencies say that stealing someone’s identity to claim their tax refunds, in particular, is a growing problem. “Refund fraud caused by identity theft is one of the biggest challenges facing the IRS,” says the agency, which has 3,000 employees working on tax-related identity theft.

The 37 agencies the two groups canvassed deemed debt collection the worst category overall for consumer complaints, based on a combination of complaint frequency, the dollar amounts involved and how severely vulnerable populations were affected. In some cases, people were hounded to pay debts that weren’t theirs.

“They make harassing phone calls or send threatening emails to scare consumers… to satisfy a loan that doesn’t exist,” the groups’ report says. Other victims who filed complaints with state and local agencies said they were subject to abusive language and other illegal practices from debt collectors, such as threatening them with arrest or calling late at night. (By law, these agencies aren’t supposed to call after 9 p.m.)

Some complaint categories are perennial hot buttons. As in 2013, automotive-related issues were the most frequently reported to protection agencies last year, including, “misrepresentations in advertising or sales of new and used cars, lemons, faulty repairs, leasing and towing disputes,” the CFA says. Other mainstays in terms of generating complaints include telemarketing robocalls, construction and home improvement firms, landlord-tenant disputes and shady retail practices like false advertising or issues with gift cards or coupons.

There were plenty of new contenders causing major consumer headaches last year, too. Consumer protection agencies reported an influx of complaints about student loan repayment or consolidation scams, and businesses refusing to honor customer agreements such as rebates, gift certificates and contracts after changing hands, sometimes even though the businesses retained their old names.

“A good recent example is gyms that have closed and be reopened by other, larger corporations,” says Ethel Newlin of the San Francisco District Attorney’s office. In some cases, she says, “Consumers were left with worthless contracts for the rest of the term they had already paid for.”

You Might Also Like:

Our National Robocalling Nightmare May Soon Be Over

10 Phone Scams You Should Hang Up on Immediately

Why This Fall Is The Best Time in Years to Book a Flight

MONEY Scams

5 Sure Signs You’re Talking to a Scammer

451077633
Yuri_Arcurs—Getty Images

5. They request sensitive information

It happens all the time — you check your email inbox or your phone rings, and on the other end, someone trying to steal your money. Maybe you ignore it. Perhaps you hang up or delete the message. Then again, you might not.

You may think you know someone is trying to trick you, but keep in mind scammers succeed often enough to be successful, otherwise these things wouldn’t happen. For the most part, thieves employ one of a few tactics that may convince you you’re dealing with a legitimate person or company, and by knowing these strategies, you’re more likely to spot a scam before you become a victim of it. Here area few signs you’re probably dealing with a scammer.

1. They Ask You to Pay on a Prepaid Card

Sometimes, it’s not clear you’re dealing with a scammer until it comes time to pay for something. This often happens with Craigslist scams: You find something for a great deal, you go back and forth with the seller to ask questions about the item or service, and when it’s time to finalize the transaction, the seller requests a money order or a prepaid card.

It happens with loan or sweepstakes scams, too, in which you should be receiving money, but the person you’re in contact with requests you to send a deposit of sorts by putting money on prepaid cards and providing the person the card info.

Prepaid cards are a common tool in scams because it’s easy to receive the money and move it quickly, without being traced.

2. They’re Emailing You From an Unofficial Email Domain

Companies have custom email domains, so there’s no reason someone from your bank would be sending you an email from a Yahoo or Gmail account. Cross-reference the email address with the email information posted to a company’s website, and look closely for misspellings. Here are some other tips for keeping your email inbox scam-free.

3. They Say You’re About to Be Arrested

Scammers rely on targets’ emotional responses to get what they’re after, so they’ll do their best to scare you into giving money. If someone calls you saying your arrest is imminent, unless you pay $X (via a prepaid card, probably), stay calm and be realistic: If you really did something that warranted your arrest, do you really think someone would call and say it could all go away for a couple hundred or thousand dollars? It wouldn’t. Hang up.

4. They Threaten Immediate Legal Action

While a creditor can sue you for an unpaid debt, it’s not a swift process. You have debt collection rights the creditor and collector must respect, and you should verify the legitimacy of a debt before paying any money. If you suspect something illegal is occurring, a consumer law attorney may review your case for free. Make sure you’re familiar with these rights if you’re ever dealing with a debt collector.

5. They Request Sensitive Information

If you call your bank and they request identity verification, that makes sense. If someone calls you and wants to verify your identity, that’s a sign of a scam. Don’t share any personal information with someone who reaches out to you, and if you’re concerned the request is legitimate, independently verify the contact information for whatever company has contacted you and reach out yourself.

Additionally, don’t provide any sensitive information by email. First of all, any company claiming to keep your information secure wouldn’t do that, and even if you trust the entity on the other end of the message, you don’t have control over their email or computer security. That makes sending electronic records of your personal information a bad idea.

Americans lose billions of dollars to scams every year so don’t underestimate the importance of protecting yourself from financial loss or identity theft. Victims of financial fraud or identity theft may also see a negative impact on their credit standing, which can be time-consuming to correct. On top of exercising caution when engaging with others, regularly monitor your financial accounts and credit scores for signs of suspicious activity. Any large, unexpected changes in your scores could signal identity theft and you should pull your full credit reports to confirm. You can get your free annual credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com.

More from Credit.com

MONEY Scams

9 Summer Scams to Avoid

135559376
Frank P wartenberg—Getty Images

It's easier to get scammed when your guard is down during the dog days of summer.

Summer is a time for sun, fun, exploration and relaxation. Unfortunately, as we unwind there are those who gear up to take advantage of our moments of diversion and distraction. Scammers love summer, too.

Here are a few summer scams that can turn a much-needed break from work into a break-the-bank moment or make for a truly unhappy holiday, and some simple tips to avoid getting got.

1. The Front Desk Scam

You arrive late at your hotel and all you want to do is check in, take a shower and go to bed. As you settle in, or just after you turn in, the phone in your room rings. The “front desk” is calling to tell you that your payment card was declined. Would you be so kind as to confirm your account number, or provide another card? You oblige then promptly forget all about it….that is until your monthly statement arrives (or whenever you check your account) and you get a rude awakening – the “front desk” wasn’t associated with the hotel at all and was really a scammer.

TIP: If you get a call from the front desk, hang up and call them back or go down to confirm your payment method in person.

2. The Hotel Take-Out Scam

Room service is closed, and you’re starving. There’s a restaurant flyer either on or near the door to your room—it could be for a diner, pizza joint or Chinese restaurant. It doesn’t matter. You order and give them a credit card number. You wait with eager anticipation for your food but nothing arrives. When you call again, there’s no answer because the person who took your order and asked for your credit card is busy maxing it out.

TIP: Call the front desk to make sure the flyer is not a scam, or go online to check for reviews.

3. The Summer Rental Scam

You find the perfect late-summer rental. Excited, or maybe a little anxious about losing out on this gem, you contact the person identified in the listing and—score—you get the place. On the appointed day, you show up at the right address, at the right time with bags in hand. You ring the bell and the door opens. The person standing in the doorway looks at you in wonderment as you happily announce that you have arrived. It might be the owner or maybe a tenant. Equally disturbing, you discover an office building, a parking lot or vacant field at the address you were given. Oh, and did I mention that the scammer and your money are long gone?

TIP: If you used a real estate agent, ask for the agent’s license number and check it, request references if there are no reviews online and confirm that the address is real and the premises are truly available for rent. Some home-rental websites have their own vetting processes and offer guarantees that will protect you in case of fraud. Be sure to read through the details, however.

4. The Wi-Fi Scam

Many destinations, travel stops, restaurants, retailers and public venues provide free Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, free Wi-Fi by no means guarantees secure Wi-Fi. Before you connect to anything that is free, confirm the exact name of the Wi-Fi network and that it is secure. Always be on the lookout for fake networks created by scammers.

TIP: Always check with the network provider or someone of authority at the venue before logging on to any new wireless connection.

5. The Summer Job Scam

You apply for a summer job and your prospective employer informs you that you’re hired, but before they can make a formal offer they have to do a background check. Sounds logical, right? So, you provide your information—including your Social Security number—but never hear back about the job. The reason: You were the job and your identity has been stolen.

TIP: Due diligence here is key: Never provide sensitive personal information to a job site or anyone claiming to offer a job as a prerequisite to starting the conversation. Always make a few calls or poke around online to make sure the company and the offer are legitimate. Then interact with an authorized representative. If at that point you want to move forward, it is appropriate to supply identifying data.

6. The Excursion Scam

When booking an excursion, double check that the company you’re working with has a good reputation. Call and make sure the number matches contact information online, and that there are reviews from happy customers. Otherwise, you could be just giving a stranger your credit card information and the ability to take you for a ride.

TIP: Read reviews, and make sure the company is legitimate.

7. The Mover Scam

Summer is the time to move. Your search for a mover yields a company that can do it fast, at what appears to be a reasonable price: but compared to what? Check with the Better Business Bureau to make sure that you are getting a deal rather than being the deal. Many of these sketchy movers will force you to ransom back your belongings.

TIP: Always read the reviews before hiring a mover.

8. The Concert Ticket Scam

Taylor Swift is rolling into town with her celebrated “1989” tour. You just have to have tickets. Are you sure you’re on a legitimate ticket site? You don’t want to find out the hard way.

TIP: Go to reputable ticket sellers (also check with the concert venues) to make absolutely sure you are dealing with someone who can and will actually deliver the goods to you rather than sell you a bill of goods.

9. The Home Maintenance Scam

Everyone has a punch list of home repairs that needs to get done before winter rolls around.

A guy shows up at your door, and tells you that his crew is working in the area and about to finish a job with some materials to spare. He offers to give you a deal because it will save him time and you money. No contract, no fuss; you agree to hire him and pay a deposit. Then he and his imaginary crew—along with your dough—are gone with the wind.

TIP: Check out potential hires through friends, neighbors and online reviews. Also, get a written contract which specifies deliverables, including a definitive start and completion date. Note that many states require home improvement contractors to be licensed and provide written contracts.

Keeping Your Summer Scam-Free

There’s also a cheat sheet on the best practices that can help you keep your summer safe from fraud, courtesy of the Connecticut Better Business Bureau:

  • Don’t wire money to strangers – When booking a vacation or renting a property, avoid anyone who only accepts payment by wire transfer. Use a secure method of payment such as a credit or online payment system.
  • Be skeptical about giving out your information – That includes your credit card number. Ignore food flyers under your hotel room door and remember that the front desk at the hotel will never call to ask you for your credit card number over the phone.
  • Is the vacation really free? – It may appear to be, but like anything else, a free vacation is not free if you have to give out your credit card number.
  • Call your financial institutions before leaving town – It may not be enough just to call your credit card company to tell them you are leaving town. Call your bank as well, since your bank generally sets the level of security associated with your credit card. If you don’t do this, your credit card transactions will probably be declined, especially if your purchases don’t match your usual spending pattern, for example, using your card in another state or country.
  • Carefully check your receipts and statements – As soon as you get home, reconcile your credit card and banking statements with your receipts. Extra charges are not necessarily fraudulent. Mistakes do happen, and regardless of whether a charge is an error or unauthorized, you should report the problem as soon as possible.

We also want to add to this: Just because you’re on vacation, don’t go on hiatus from checking your credit reports and credit scores. If someone fraudulently opens an account in your name, you may not know about it until it has done a serious number on your credit. Better to catch it as soon as possible so you can deal with it before it becomes a big problem. You can get your credit reports for free every year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies at AnnualCreditReport.com. A larger, unexpected change in your credit scores can tip you off to potential fraud.

More from Credit.com:

MONEY Scams

Airline Scams Take Off on Facebook

6252-000364
Jake Rajs—Getty Images

Beware shady airfare sweepstakes and voucher scams.

July and August are historically the most popular months for air travel in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Travel Statistics, and when most people plan a vacation, they’re looking for deals. That desire to keep expenses down while also getting away for a few days makes the summer months prime time for travel scams.

Here are two recent examples of schemes that prey on your hopes to travel at a low cost as a way to steal money or personal information.

Flight Voucher Scam

Someone posted $200 airline vouchers for the price of $100 to a community buy/sell/trade group on Facebook, reports ABC7 in Denver, and at least one victim has come forward saying he paid for the vouchers, which had been used by the time he tried to book a flight for family to come visit. Before purchasing the vouchers (note: vouchers generally aren’t transferrable), he met the seller and checked with the airline to confirm their validity, but when he tried to make travel arrangements they had already been used.

This happened in Arvada, Colo., where police are investigating four related cases, ABC7 reports.

Fake Airfare Sweepstakes

You can fall victim to a scam even if it doesn’t involve money (at least not initially). A fake sweepstakes made the rounds on Facebook over the Fourth of July weekend, in which users could “like” a page and share a post from Virgin Airlines (not really Virgin Airlines) for a chance to win free flights for a year.

The idea behind this scheme is to drive thousands of people to a Facebook page and, once the page is popular enough, drive those users to scam content or malware. It’s called like farming, as Jennifer Abel explains in her report for Consumer Affairs. “Liking” a post with suspicious content may not directly harm you, but it could make you a target for other scams.

It’s good to want to save money on travel, but there are plenty of ways to do that without buying tickets from strangers or entering contests. If you’re a frequent traveler, you may want to consider getting a credit card with travel rewards. Take a look at our list of the Best Travel Credit Cards in America to get an idea of how you can benefit from a card like this. You generally need good or excellent credit to qualify for these products, and it’s best if you don’t carry a balance on them (they have high interest rates), but travel credit cards can be a huge money saver. It’s important you see the big picture: Many rewards cards also carry annual fees, which may outweigh their benefits, depending how often you use them, and it’s never a good idea to go into debt for the sake of earning a reward.

More From Credit.com:

MONEY gambling

$1 Billion Powerball Jackpot Is Coming

person grabbing powerball ticket
Scott Olson—Getty Images

At same time, the odds of winning are worse than ever.

Earlier this week, the New York Gaming Commission, which is a member of the Multi-State Lottery Association, announced it was tweaking the odds of winning the lottery to raise more revenues. But don’t get excited: Your chances of winning aren’t getting better.

Precisely, the odds of winning Powerball, which are now 1 in 175,223,510, are shooting up to 1 in 292,201,338. So your chances of hitting it big in the lottery, which are already far less likely than getting killed by a shark or struck by lightning, are about to get much worse.

While there is arguably nothing positive about the lottery before or after the changes are instituted, the big brains at FiveThirtyEight point out that there is somewhat of a silver lining to the news that the odds of winning are getting worse.

Assuming that all of the states that participate in Powerball get on board with the changes, sooner or later some luckier-than-ever winner stands to win an epically huge chunk of cash. “The chances of a Powerball win making some future player a billionaire are radically higher. Like, 7.5 times as high,” FiveThirtyEight’s Walt Hickey explains.

Basically, a $1 billion jackpot is likely to happen in part because the likelihood of anyone winning an individual Powerball is decreasing. The longer that no one wins, the bigger the pot gets. What’s more, as the pot grows, the number of tickets sold grows as well, which in turn increases the pace of the pot’s rise.

Hickey ran simulations of five years of play comparing the old and new odds. With the old odds, only 8.5% of the five-year simulations wound up with a $1 billion Powerball jackpot. However, under the new scenario, in which the odds of anyone winning are worse and the pot will therefore rise and rise, a $1 billion jackpot appeared in nearly two-thirds (63.4%) of the simulated five-year periods.

MONEY Tech

Our National Robocalling Nightmare May Soon Be Over

robot using smartphone
iStock

Take that, spammers and robocallers!

In the phrase “unwanted robocall,” the word unwanted probably isn’t necessary. Is there any automated sales call that is actually wanted? Ever?

Earlier this year, 200,000 people signed a petition asking telecom companies to give customers the means to block commercial robocalls. They probably could have gotten tens of millions of such signatures with a little more time and outreach.

In any event, on Thursday, hallelujah, the Federal Communications Commission adopted a package that will make it much easier to put a stop to the extremely annoying and unwanted robocalls. The commission’s decision “affirmed consumers’ rights to control the calls they receive,” while also clarifying that it was fully legal for telephone companies to offer robocall-blocking technology to customers.

“Complaints related to unwanted calls are the largest category of complaints received by the Commission, numbering more than 215,000 in 2014,” an FCC statement explained. (The Federal Trade Commission, meanwhile, reportedly received an astounding 3 million complaints about robocalls in 2014.) The new rules are intended to address consumer concerns by “closing loopholes and strengthening consumer protections already on the books,” according to the FCC.

Despite heavy lobbying from multiple industries on the pro-robocall and pro-spam side, the FCC ruled to uphold and clarify the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, while also bolstering the protections offered by the Do Not Call Registry. Specifically, the package affirmed:

• Phone service providers can offer robocall-blocking technology to customers.

• Consumers can decide to opt out of robocalls at any time.

• The same protections and opt-out rights regarding telemarketing messages apply to text messages as well as calls to wireless and landline phones.

A group of consumer advocates jointly applauded the measure as soon as it was announced. “We applaud the FCC for holding the line to keep the plague of unwanted robocalls from becoming even worse,” said Susan Grant, director of Consumer Protection and Privacy at Consumer Federation of America. “Since the FCC has now clarified that telephone companies can block these types of calls, we expect the companies to act quickly to implement blocking options for their customers.”

On the other hand, speaking on behalf of the business community, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce warned that the FCC’s move could lead to more class-action lawsuits against companies, which would “likely lead to increased costs for consumers.”

Or perhaps businesses could simply stop robocalling and avoid lawsuits entirely.

MONEY Scams

New Scams Target People Buying and Selling Gift Cards Online

scam-fbi-gift-card-auction-exchange-buy-sell
baona—Getty Images

In some cases, victims are out thousands of dollars.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation published an alert Thursday warning of a worrisome trend: Thieves are using gift card exchange and auction websites to steal money from unsuspecting card buyers and sellers.

There are several traps that target people selling gift cards in particular, the FBI reports.

In one scam, fraudsters pay you for a card (or the code on the card), but then dispute or cancel the charge after they have already used the gift card. In another, they ask you to buy a bunch of gift cards in exchange for an item on an auction site—and then never actually send you the purchase.

To avoid becoming a victim, the FBI suggests you take several precautions when you use gift card websites.

  • Check reviews of any website you use.
  • Always review gift card balances before and after purchasing the card.
  • If you are selling a gift card, don’t ever give out the card’s PIN until your payment transaction is complete.
  • Be wary of auction sites selling gift cards at a discount or in bulk.
  • If you are buying a gift card in a store, examine the protective scratch-off area on the back of the card for evidence of tampering.

And beware of social media postings offering vouchers or gift cards: Fraudulent messages can sometimes appear to have been shared by a friend when they really come from a scam artist.

 

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com