Scams 101: What to Look Out for During the Holidays

Now that Thanksgiving has passed, holiday shopping is in full swing. Even though inflation will affect consumer spending and shopping habits, holiday sales are still expected to reach $1.45 to $1.47 trillion this year. And as with any big shopping event, it’s expected that fraudsters will find ways to scam consumers.

Every year, scammers use similar tactics to trick shoppers. While some are more obvious than others, it’s important consumers stay aware of common holiday fraud patterns so they can protect themselves and their finances. Here’s what you should be on the lookout for this holiday season.

Online holiday shopping fraud

Malls and local department stores can be overwhelming this time of year, so it’s no surprise more individuals are choosing to shop online. In fact, e-commerce sales are expected to increase 14.3% and hit up to $264 billion. Convenience is key when it comes to shopping, but that means there’s more to be on the lookout for too – including scam e-commerce shops.

When looking for specific out-of-stock or pricey items, it may be tempting to purchase a version found on a website resembling a legitimate store. However, these scam shops can take your personal and payment information and then never actually ship the item. Fraudulent e-commerce websites are more common than you think. These fake sites mimicking legitimate stores grew 178% in 2021 with 5,300 new websites per week.

Trust your gut. If you see a site like this, do a thorough Google search to see if the company has legitimate reviews. If you see others mentioning it looks fake or is a scam, do not buy any items from their website.

Online banking scams

More than 65% of people use an online banking service to manage their finances. And as digital services have gotten more popular, scammers are using smarter con methods to access an individual’s finances or take their identity. Here are major online banking scams to look out for.

  • Loan scams: When scammers pretend to be a legitimate bank offering a low-rate loan through an email or convincing website. This is a way for them to take your information and access your bank account.
  • Wire fraud in real estate: A scam where someone will use already occurring real estate transactions to hack the company and make wire transfers to themselves. These transactions can seem legitimate and go undetected if not monitored.
  • Fraudulent checks: When an individual is used as a mule for fraudulent checks. This will look like an email or message from someone they know, asking the person to help by opening a bank account and cashing a check, and promising them a portion of the money. These checks will bounce and cause the victim’s account balance to go negative.

 Related Article: How to Avoid Banking Scams and Stay Safe Online

Seasonal job scams

With the increasing number of remote work opportunities, job seekers are vulnerable to employment scams. Typically with seasonal jobs, you might think of retail or restaurant gigs – but e-commerce roles are also becoming more popular. These scams can look like typical remote work, but contain promises that seem too good to be true. Oftentimes the company will ask you to cover work expenses upfront with the promise of paying you back through a check or transfer. With any job listing you’re applying to, it’s crucial you do extensive research on the company and assess if this is a legitimate opportunity.

Travel and vacation fraud

Holiday travel and family vacations are a desired market for fraudsters. In 2021, there were over 4,000 mentions of fraudulent airlines and hotel offers featured on the dark web. With such a large industry – travel fraud can take on many forms, including frequent flyer mileage scams, currency exchange, bogus travel agencies, rental cons, fake hotel or flight listings, and more. This is yet another way for scammers to take your information and access your finances. When it comes to travel (and any purchase), it’s important to buy from websites and companies you know and trust. If you see a package deal, do your research to ensure it’s a real offer.

You can count on First Financial to go above and beyond to help you avoid fraud and protect your finances. If you ever see something suspicious, you can always contact one of our financial experts to help you determine if the offer, website, or service is legitimate. Contact our member services department at 732-312-1500 or visit one of our branches.

We hope you have a safe holiday shopping season!

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6 Scams to Watch Out For this Holiday Season

The holiday season is a joyful time for family, friends, celebrations, and gifts. And unfortunately, it can be a time for scams. Now that the holiday season has officially arrived, authorities are warning local residents to beware of scams and deceptive advertising while shopping at stores or online this year.

Here are some tips on how to protect yourself:

The Bait and Switch: Take retailers’ advertisements to the store with you. Unscrupulous retailers may advertise goods at low prices, but when you get to the store the price may be higher than advertised or the product might not be there at all.

Skimming Devices: Skimming devices are often placed on gas pumps or ATMs to capture data from the magnetic stripe on the back of credit and debit cards. If something looks out of place or easily wiggles, use a different ATM, gas pump, or register.

“Cybersquatting” Sites: Crooks try to impersonate well-known websites by inverting characters or slightly altering the name of a well-known website. The copycat sites may look similar to the real website – and they can steal your credit information. Carefully read website addresses to ensure you are shopping on a legitimate website.

Copycat and Fraudulent Websites: Fake websites set up by scammers target online shoppers during the holiday season. Sometimes appearing as ad results in online searches, these sites may contain malware or steal credit card data. Avoid making purchases from untrustworthy sites.

Security Certificates: To ensure you are shopping on a secure website, make sure the website begins with “https” and has a small padlock icon next to the webpage address. Keep your computer, tablet or smartphone up-to-date and install security software.

Retailers Who Request Payment through Wire Transfer: Legitimate online businesses will not use wire transfer to collect payment for purchases, ever. This is a sure sign of a scam.

Some other important holiday shopping tips:

  • Sign up for transaction alerts on your credit and debit cards, or at least monitor your accounts closely online and report any suspicious activity immediately to your financial institution. Enroll in Visa Purchase Alerts for your First Financial debit card here. Sign up for Visa Credit Card alerts in Online Banking.
  • Think before you click! This doesn’t just pertain to emails, also be leary about clicking on online ads, applications and electronic greeting cards. Cybercriminals often mimic content, so be on the lookout for altered URLs.
  • Don’t trust a site or name you don’t know, and don’t fall for too good to be true prices.
  • Use payment methods that offer tokenization. This includes using a digital wallet to pay for purchases like Apple Pay, Samsung/Android Pay and the like.
  • Have unique, complex passwords for websites that store your information and change your passwords frequently.
  • Be cautious of charities you give to online, in person and over the phone. If you are going to donate, be sure to investigate the charity on the web first and make sure they are legitimate (or a well-known organization like the Salvation Army, St. Jude, etc.).
  • Ensure home computers are protected with antivirus software, anti-spyware, and a firewall.
  • Look for ATM and gas pump tampering, or skimming devices. Do not use the ATM or gas pump if you suspect anything suspicious. Watch our short video on how to spot a skimming device here.

Article Source: Kara Seymour for and 11-28-17 CUNA Risk Alert