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Beware of gift card scammers and fake WIFI

By Veronica Carter, Public News Service

Photo: Thieves are watching and waiting for a chance to be a Grinch during the holidays. (aarp.org)

December 20, 2016 (San Diego's East County) - At this time of year, most of us are getting our credit and debit cards out more often than normal. That means the chance that a cyber thief will try to steal your money or your identity increases as well. Shopping online can be a risk, but it's also easy to fall victim to scammers when using public WiFi.

Terri Worman, associate state director of advocacy and outreach at AARP Illinois said because we're so busy at this time of year it's easy to let your guard down.

"Criminals will actually set up fake Wifis around coffee shops, motels and other places so that the name will look similar and you log onto it, and now they have access to the information that you're using," she explained.

AARP said another common scam during the holidays is with gift cards. Thieves will take the numbers off cards on display in the stores, then wait for you to activate it after you purchase it. They then use the money that's on there for themselves. Worman said it's safer to buy those cards directly from a cashier.

Worman said thieves are very observant and you may never know they are watching.

"They are extremely good at what they do," she said. "They also know our habits, getting on our mobile devices. They know we do that all the time. People know we love deals."

And yes, she said it is safer to use credit cards, rather than debit.

"With a credit card by law, you're only liable for up to $50 of the fraudulent amount," she added. "With the debit card, the law doesn't apply to that so you could be liable for the entire amount."

AARP has a Fraud Watch Network online for tips on how to keep safe during the holidays. It's at aarp.org.

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