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MADISON, Wis. - The thieves, crooks and scamsters who prey on consumers don't take a holiday. They run their ploys every day, trying to get your personal identity or your money.
One of the biggest mistakes consumers make is sending sensitive information over unsecured, public Wi-Fi, according to Jeannie Tucker, who runs the fraud program for AARP Wisconsin. Many merchants provide Wi-Fi free of charge to their customers as a convenience. But Tucker advises great caution when you log onto a public Wi-Fi system. "When accessing the Internet through public Wi-Fi, your online activity is visible to hackers, including any personal information you share," she explains. "Your best bet: If what you're doing requires a username and password, don't do it over public Wi-Fi."
AARP says Americans are generally getting older and wiser about online scams, and people over 55 actually are less frequently fooled than young people. But when those over 55 are fooled, they tend to lose more money to scams than younger people. Public Wi-Fi is OK for surfing the net or checking news or social media sites, according to AARP, but never when financial information is involved. Tucker also warns about unsolicited email or texts touting fantastic bargains. "Be cautious, especially with unfamiliar websites, links or posts on social media," she stresses. "Carefully read reviews. Search the retailer's name with the word 'scam' and type a retailer's website yourself instead of clicking on links in emails or texts."
Another scam that runs year-round but is especially prevalent during holiday shopping season involves package delivery. "Scammers take advantage of this busy time by sending very convincing phishing emails that can appear to be from UPS, FedEx and the United States Postal Service," Tucker warns. "Clicking on any of these links will lead you to phony sign-in pages that can trick you into providing personal information." AARP has a website where consumers can learn about the latest scams reported in their community, at www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork.