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‘Tis the Season to Avoid Holiday Shopping Scams

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Black Friday and Cyber Monday are already in our rear-view mirror, and that means it’s time to start thinking about getting gifts for your friends and family.

However, while you’re on the lookout for that perfect gift, fraudsters and scammers are looking to become the Grinch who stole your holiday cheer. A global study conducted by Norton in August 2022 revealed that 36% of Americans have fallen victim to online shopping scams during the holidays, losing nearly $400 on average as a result – that’s a hefty lump of coal in your stocking!

Here are a few of the most common holiday shopping scams that you should be aware of while filling Santa’s sleigh this season:

Debit Card Fraud

Debit card fraud is on the rise. To help reduce this issue, we ask that you please monitor your account activity carefully to detect any unauthorized transactions on your account quickly. The best way to monitor is to activate notifications for your debit card. This provides instant notification when a transaction occurs on your debit card.

Here’s how you can turn on notifications for your credit or debit card:

  1. Go to Card Management in Online or Mobile Banking.
  2. Choose Alerts and Controls for the card you want to receive notices about. You can adjust your notifications by merchant type, transaction type, location type, or set spend limits for your card.


If you notice anything out of the ordinary in your account history:

  • Turn off your debit card within Card Management in Online or Mobile Banking.
  • Speak with us over the phone or at one of our branches for further assistance.

Social Media Scams

These often involve advertisement posts from seemingly familiar brands, or even posts shared by people you follow, promising name-brand or luxury goods at bargain-basement prices.

However, these are often gateways meant to collect your financial information or to gain access to your social media account so they can spread their net wider in hopes of catching their next mark.

Be vigilant, and don’t click on links for suspicious deals or shop on online sites you haven’t heard of before. If you want something, it pays to get it from a trusted website – better to pay more and keep your information safe than pay less and get taken for a ride by fraudsters online!

Gift Card Scams

These generally come in the form of phishing emails or texts that appear to be from someone you know, asking to purchase several gift cards for them, for business or other purposes.

If you receive any unusual requests for gift cards during the holidays, reach out directly to the person who is purportedly contacting you by phone to confirm the authenticity of the request.

Additionally, if anyone ever insists on payment via gift card, be wary. Legitimate businesses and government bodies never ask for payment via gift card. Any such request is a marker for fraud.

Package Delivery Scams

In 2022, the U.S. Postal Service processed more than 11.7 billion pieces of mail and packages during the holiday season. Safe to say, we all rely on deliveries to help us complete our holiday shopping lists – and criminals know this.

Fraudsters will send texts or emails asking about package-related inquiries: updating the delivery date, tracking a package location, updating payment preferences, providing delivery instructions, and paying a shipping fee. They will generally provide a phone number or link to interact with and express urgency about your delivery to get you to act immediately.

If you receive a communication by phone, text, or email claiming to be from a shipping company that throws up any red flags (numerous misspellings, demanding immediate payment, etc.), don’t interact with that communication – contact the shipper directly through their specific website. Type the address into your browser – clicking on a link may send you to a phishing site meant to trick you into providing sensitive information to a scammer.

There are several different types of scams circulating in our world, but you can still have a happy holiday and shop safely – just follow these tips and be vigilant:

Use common sense

  • Don’t click on any suspicious links or attachments in emails, on websites, or on social media.
  • If you have any questions about a communication claiming to be from a specific company, contact that company directly using a verified channel – their customer service phone number, website, etc.
  • Be skeptical of ads that appear in your social media feed promoting incredible discounts on high-demand or luxury goods. If it looks too good to be true, it usually is.

 

Know who you are buying from (or selling to)

  • Only make purchases from reputable retail outlets. Make sure their websites are legitimate and secure – a good thing to look for is that they have https:// in their website address – there should also be a padlock in the address bar to indicate that a site is secure.
  • Avoid buyers who request their purchase be shipped using a certain method to avoid customs or taxes inside another country.
  • Verify the legitimacy of a buyer or seller before moving forward with a purchase. If you’re on an auction site like eBay, check their feedback rating – and if their rating is mostly unfavorable or non-existent, walk away.

 

Be careful how you pay

  • Never wire money directly to a seller.
  • If you are paying a seller directly, don’t use pre-paid gift cards.
  • When possible, use a credit card while shopping online, and check your statement regularly – if you see any suspicious transactions, you can contact the credit card company to dispute the charge, and you have a better chance of getting your money back in the event you don’t receive your order.

Don't Be a Victim!

You need to know about credit union impersonation scams so you can avoid becoming a victim of these nefarious tactics.

Online and Mobile Banking will be unavailable on Thursday, May 9 from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. Friday, May 10.