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Seniors: Watch Out For These 3 Shopping Scams

Seniors: Watch Out For These 3 Ecommerce Shopping Scams 

Older Americans are favorite targets of scammers because they are more likely to have money to steal, more vulnerable due to cognitive decline, or simply less savvy to new tricks thieves use to gain access to secure information. According to the National Council on Aging, seniors lose approximately $3 billion to financial fraud each year. While relatives commit over 90% of elder financial abuse, interactions with strangers can be costly. So before you buy or sell anything online, decide how you will conduct the transaction. 

Local Ecommerce
Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp and Craigslist are three popular places to buy and sell belongings locally. These platforms make it easy to declutter and make a few bucks without the hassle of dealing with shipping and handling. For buyers, you can get your goods on the same day buying from someone in your town. As of April 2021, Facebook Marketplace reportedly had over 1 billion users, with 250 million user interactions per month. While most of the buyers and sellers are legitimate, be on guard for con artists also lurking on these platforms. Always meet in a safe place and be careful to avoid unintentionally becoming a part of a shopping scam. 

Do You Have PayPal? 
As a seller, you can choose how you will accept payment. If you only want cash, tell that to your buyer. If you have PayPal and feel comfortable using it as a payment gateway, then don't worry. But never sign up for PayPal or any other financial institution by clicking a link received via email or text message. Instead, go directly to the website.

A common scam to gain access to your financial accounts begins when a potential buyer offers to make payment through PayPal. Let's say "Jimmy" is selling a bedroom set for $500. An interested buyer, let's call him "Fraudy1," contacts Jimmy and asks if he has PayPal. When Jimmy says "no," Fraudy1 politely offers to send Jimmy a link to sign up. Clicking the link takes Jimmy to a fake website to create a new PayPal account. Jimmy enters his credit card or bank account information. However, instead of granting PayPal access to his account, Jimmy provided Fraudy1, the con artist, with his bank account and routing information or credit card to go on a spending spree.

Google Voice
Do not post your phone number online. “Joey” posted an antique clock on Craigslist for $100. In the listing, Joey included his cell phone number. Shortly after the listing posts, an interested buyer, “Fraudy2” reached out and asked if the clock was still available. When Joey replied that it was, Fraudy2 asked if she could stop by after work to see it. After Joey said yes, Fraudy2 asked him to confirm that it wasn’t a scam by replying with a google code she sent him. Unbeknownst to Joey, this code allowed Fraudy2 to create a Google Voice account using Joey’s phone number. Fraudy2 was never interested in the antique clock. She only wanted to gain access to Joey's phone. By linking his number through Google Voice using the code Joey provided, she can use it to spoof callers with phone scams. 

Even if you do not post your phone number online, be wary about who you give it to when conducting transactions online. 

Gift Cards
The Federal Trade Commission offers clear and direct advice regarding gift cards; “anyone who demands to be paid with a gift card is a scammer.” The way this scam works is that “Fraudy3” requests payment in the form of a gift card. The most popular requested gift cards are eBay, Google Play, Target, iTunes, and Amazon. Fraudy3 will ask you to text a photo of the back of the gift card. If you do so, you are essentially handing money to Fraudy3. You may never see the item you purchased or hear from Fraudy3 again. Since gift cards do not have the same fraud protection as credit cards, you have little or no recourse to get your money back. If you realize you have fallen for a gift card scheme, the best option is to try and spend the money on the gift card before Fraudy3 does.  

These are just a few of the scams and phishing attempts as a result of ecommerce. If you or your loved one is worried about becoming victimized, take proactive steps to place a credit freeze and read more about the ways to prevent fraud.


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