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AARP warns of gift-card scam e-mails

Consumer Reports News: July 31, 2012 01:08 PM

The AARP has issued an alert regarding phony e-mails that say recipients have won a $1,000 VISA gift card: The e-mails are ostensibly from the organization but actually are meant to collect personal information. This data is then sold to marketing companies who use it to target victims with sales pitches; stolen personal data can also be used for identity theft.

"Emails bearing the AARP name (misspelled as Aarp) were reported... after a wave of similar text messages in recent weeks falsely promised $1,000 gift cards from Walmart, Best Buy and Target," said a post at the organization's website.

Consumers who clicked on a link within the e-mail are sent to site with a "consumer survey" that requested personal information such as household income, credit and debit card ownership, credit card debt, and medical conditions.

To "claim" the fake gift card, you then must download an app—perhaps the most dangerous step, as it could make you vulnerable to malware that opens up your computer to hacks.

Before you click on any link in an e-mail—even one sent by a friend's account—make sure to take steps to ensure that you're not clicking away private data. Never provide personal information via an e-mail link, and be sure to enable the antiphishing feature in your browser or download a free antiphishing toolbar such as McAfee Site Advisor, which warns you when you're visiting a dangerous site.

Take the same type of precautions if you receive a text on your phone from a source you don't know that tries to get you to click on a link.

For more advice on staying safe online, visit our Online Security Guide.

And if you do fall victim to a scam, there are steps you can take. See our story "What if you're conned?" for details.

Ignore Phony AARP Gift Card Offers [AARP website]

Carol Mangis

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