WASHINGTON—Today, AARP announced the launch of two new training courses and other intervention resources aimed at equipping major U.S. retail employees with the tools needed to spot and stop gift card and wire-transfer exploitation. Walgreens and Best Buy have both signed on as inaugural retailers utilizing the AARP BankSafe training. The trainings are available at no cost to all retailers in the United States.
“Retailers can serve as a crucial line of defense to protect consumers from scams,” said Debra Whitman, AARP’s Executive Vice President and Chief Public Policy Officer. “By collaborating with major U.S. retailers like Walgreens and Best Buy, AARP’s BankSafe program gives frontline employees information and tools they need to stop scams and protect consumers – especially seniors – from losing their hard earned money due to financial exploitation.”
Gift card sales have rapidly increased over the past few years, with market projections estimating that sales will reach $221 billion by 2024. With this rapid growth, the Federal Trade Commission has seen the number of reported gift card scams increase every year since 2018. In 2021 alone, consumers reported losing $233 million to scams using gift cards. The average loss has also increased from $700 per victim in 2018 to $1,000 in 2021.
A new AARP report identifies consumer education, employee training and point-of-sale system advancements as the keys to addressing the problem. Retail employees serve as a critical last line of defense for consumers. AARP recently found that one in four consumers that were in the process of buying gift cards in a scam, had a retail employee warn them. Because more than half the time a third-party intervenes in an attempted financial exploitation, the potential victims are able to avoid losing money (AARP/Virginia Tech, 2019 & DeLiema, et al., 2019), U.S. retailers that adopt the training could potentially stop tens of millions of dollars a year from being stolen from consumers.
“Our frontline team members are one of our greatest assets and they have an incredible and unique advantage in addressing this issue because of the relationships they forge with their older customers who regularly visit our stores for their prescriptions and other needs,” said Maria Smith, Vice President of Payment and Financial Services at Walgreens.
“Gift card fraud scams are a serious issue and, without knowing the facts, anyone can become a victim,” said Kia Hakimi, Best Buy’s Vice President of Global Threat Detection and Response. “In retail, these scams often begin outside of a physical store. The BankSafe training helps employees with the knowledge and skills they need to spot the signs and help stop gift card fraud from harming others.”
AARP’s highly interactive BankSafe training is built on the same award-winning framework that has empowered bank, credit union and investment firm employees to stop a projected $112 million from being stolen from older adults. The gift card and wire transfer iterations of the training are 15-minute courses comprised of 11 activities that include interactive videos, gamified elements, a resource library full of tools and assets, and much more.
More information about AARP’s BankSafe courses and resources, including how to sign up for the training, can be found at aarp.org/banksafe.
AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation's largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org, www.aarp.org/espanol or follow @AARP, @AARPenEspanol and @AARPadvocates, @AliadosAdelante on social media.