‘Tis the season for scammers

DES MOINES — A survey finds eight in ten American consumers experienced some type of fraud this year, and scams are ramping up.

AARP Iowa spokeswoman Alissa Brammer says we need to be especially watchful for unsolicited emails or texts about non-existent shipments. “Consumers really need to be on the lookout for those package delivery scams,” Brammer says. “We’re all ordering so many things online, and receiving gifts, that it can be tricky to keep track of all your purchases. Scammers really know that this is what’s happening with consumers, so they take advantage of that as best they can.”

At first glance, the notifications may look legitimate and appear to be checking in with a customer about something they’ve ordered, with a link to confirm where the package is in the delivery process.

“Consumers click the link, and a lot of times what happens is, that allows the scammer access to your personal information,” Brammer says. “They can put malware on your computer or your phone after you click it. Or also, they oftentimes ask for your financial information, maybe saying something like, ‘We need to confirm your credit card in order for this delivery to be made.’”

If you have doubts about the message, Brammer says to scrutinize the return email address, for starters.

“A lot of times scammers will have a slight misspelling in the name of the company, or it has a name that is similar to the delivery company you might expect it to be from but it’s not quite exact,” Brammer says. “Look up the name of the company to be sure you’re clear on the exact name and maybe even contact that company to see if you are expected to get a package from them.”

Older Iowans tend to be easy targets for scammers, and she suggests you check in with your parents or grandparents to make sure they’re aware of these identity thieves and how they operate.

“One thing AARP completed recently was a survey of older consumers, and a lot of people failed a quiz about what kinds of common scams are out there,” Brammer says, “so more education is definitely needed in a lot of areas.”

One key finding from the survey is the dramatic increase from last year in the percentage of consumers who report receiving a false notification about a package shipment issue. Brammer says the number jumped from 29% last year to 52% this year.