Stay Financially Vigilant During the Holidays
Nov 15, 2022
As gift-giving season draws ever nearer, the risk of running into scams or fraud is only ramping up. Fraudsters will take advantage of people who are shopping online, not always checking their statements or otherwise stressed and preoccupied by the holidays.
It’s important to remain vigilant and always keep financial safety at the back of your mind. Keep an eye out for some of these common fraud tactics:
Gift Card Fraud
Gift card scams come in many forms, but they all share one common detail: the scammer requests you to purchase a gift card and either send it to them or read them the numbers on the back. There are several tactics the scammer might try, from impersonating a friend in need to a stranger writing you a fake check to send them gift cards in return.
Scammers use gift cards to steal money because gift cards often do not have the same protections your credit cards do. Once the money is on the gift card, you cannot get that money back.
How to avoid it: Never use gift cards to pay someone or send money back to someone. If you receive a request from a friend, call your friend to confirm it’s really them.
Fake Websites and Merchants
Part of holiday shopping involves hunting for the best deal – but when a deal is too good to be true, it often isn’t. Scammers may create bogus websites or online storefronts with unbelievable prices full of stolen images and even made-up customer testimonials. You’ll pay for a cool item, and end up receiving something far different from what you ordered – or nothing at all.
How to avoid it: Click carefully while you shop online. Check emails and websites for spelling errors and blurry images, and check product listings and photographs for consistency in quality and style. If you’re shopping on a new site, google third-party site reviews. Check for “https” in the URL, which indicates a higher level of security. Using a credit card to pay instead of a debit card can also offer an extra layer of buyer protection.
Especially as the holidays draw nearer, many merchants will send out coupons and sale information in emails. Similar to the scam above, clicking a link here may take you to a fake website that looks a lot like the merchant you’re familiar with.
How to avoid it: Trust your gut. Always double check the email’s sender, read carefully for typos and misspelled URLs, and never click a link if you are suspicious. If you receive a password reset email that you did not prompt, delete it and manually change your password through the website or app.
P2P Payment Requests
Some scammers have turned to person-to-person payment apps, such as Zelle® or Venmo™, to request or fool you into sending money. They use these apps because payments often cannot be cancelled. Scammers may pretend to offer goods or services, impersonate a friend or pose as your financial institution’s fraud department.
How to avoid it: Only send money to people you know and trust. If your bank or credit union calls you about supposed fraud, hang up and call the bank or credit union back directly at the number on their website. If someone asks you to wire money as a “test” or read a verification code aloud, do not – that’s always a scam.
Phone Calls and Texts
Everyone’s been feeling the increase in robocalls and automated text messages. They may tell you there’s a limited time for a deal, or that if you don’t act quickly your account will be shut down or you may even be arrested – unless you send them money, of course.
How to avoid it: Stay calm. If someone is pressuring you to send money over the phone, hang up. If you get a text out of the blue from a number you don’t recognize, do not tap any links in the message. Sometimes scammers may impersonate a bank or credit union or even the IRS – if this happens, hang up and call the institution back at a number you know. And remember – the IRS will never call you.
Cryptocurrency investment opportunities sound tempting – you’re promised a fortune for being one of the first to invest. As the holidays draw near, these future returns may even sound like a great “gift” so that you’ll invest on someone else’s behalf.
Cryptocurrency is still a highly unregulated and versatile market. Many scammers take advantage of this uncontrolled market to launder money and swindle hopeful investors out of their hard-earned funds.
How to avoid it: Never invest your money without performing due diligence and researching the opportunity on your own. Do not listen to anyone telling you to jump on an opportunity right away – they are often using the pressure of time to get you to make a rash decision.