The Grinch may have stolen Christmas, but what criminals are after this year is our money.
A new survey shows that many of us are making mistakes around this time of year that could cost us big time. AARP recently administered a quiz to see if American shoppers know how to protect themselves from financial fraud.
The results are not so good.
"Seventy percent of the people that we surveyed, 800 18-year-olds who said that they were going to be holiday shopping, failed this exam," said AARP fraud expert Jean Setzfand.
Quiz question No. 1: Is it safe to shop with your phone or laptop using a public Wi-Fi signal?
"There are hackers out there I've heard, but I trust it, I mean what are they really going to do? It's just a phone," answered shopper Joseph Maleeh.
And so were the 42 percent of Americans surveyed, who said they'll use public Wi-Fi to make an online purchase.
"People are putting up dummy free wifis," said Setzfand. "You don't want to sort of roll the dice and take the chances of anybody actually getting access to your credit card information, and beyond that they're accessing possibly address information. So really don't never use public Wi-Fi for any type of transaction."
Question No. 2: Is it safer to use credit or debit when you shop?
"I usually pay debit," answered Maleeh.
"It's easier, the money is already there, you don't have to pay it back later," commented Ana Rosas, another shopper.
Wrong again. Sixty-four percent of the people surveyed got that one wrong, too.
"Use your credit card because you have, at most, a $50 liability if somebody steals your information, whereas for a debit card, if you don't catch it in time, which is only two days, a fraudster or a scam artist can tap right into your account and take a lot more than $50," said Setzfand.
Question No. 3: When you write a check to charity, do you ask how much of your donation goes to help people or organizations in need, rather than the charity itself?
"I've never done that, no," said shopper Lily Ramirez.
"It's something I want to know, but I don't ask," answered Nitin Tripathi, another shopper.
Wrong. Seventy percent of Americans surveyed don't either. Before you donate a dime, you should be getting some key information.
This time, Setzfand recommends consumers ask: "How much of my money is actually going to the organization that I'm donating to or are you, as a person who is in the process of fundraising, keeping a percentage of that? And what percentage are you actually keeping? Is it 80 percent that you're keeping versus 80 percent actually going or even higher than that going to the recipient organization?"
Turns out, professional fundraisers are legally permitted to keep most of the money they raise for charity, as long as they don't lie about how much they keep.
If you'd like to see more quiz questions to find out how vulnerable you may be to other holiday tricks, you can find the survey here.