Say “Bah Humbug” to Holiday Scams

Christmas on laptop iStock_000010766072SmallChristmas carols, stockings hung by the fire, time to celebrate with friends and family—we love the holidays! Unfortunately, so do fraudsters, and as budgets get tight this time of year, scammers often ramp up their efforts.

Don’t get scrooged by holiday fraud attempts, which come in many guises. Beware of situations such as these:

Phone, Text, and Email Scams

Fraudsters often pose as legitimate service providers asking for your account information. Such attempts are known as “phishing” (by email) or “smishing” (by text). They may route you to a fraudulent website where you are to fill in your personal details.

Don’t be fooled! Consumers will NEVER contact you over the phone, by text, or by email asking you to provide personal information such as account numbers and Social Security numbers. If you receive a request over the phone or online from someone asking you to provide such information, do not give it to them. Instead, contact us at 800.991.2221 to report the issue.

Craigslist and Secret Shopper Scams

These scam attempts tend to target victims who are out of work, looking for more work, or otherwise in a tight financial situation—in other words, those who can’t afford to be a victim of fraud. Mystery shopper or secret shopper schemes may be advertised online or the scammer may target individuals by mail or email.

In one version of these scams, a member will receive a check with a letter asking her to use the funds to make purchases at a certain store in order to participate in the secret shopper program, keep some of the money as reimbursement for the time involved, and wire the excess back to the sender.

In another, a member receives a check with a letter asking him to cash it, keep a certain amount of the money, and send the rest back via Western Union or another wire transfer service in order to secretly evaluate the service provided by the wire transfer company.

Or a member responding to a job posting on Craigslist may receive notification that she got the position and that her “future employer” is sending her a check to cover moving expenses. The check will be larger than that amount, so the “employer” will ask to have the extra wired back.

In all of these cases, the checks will turn out to be fraudulent. If they are not identified as such before the victim sends money to the scammer, he or she will have lost whatever amount was sent.

The best way to protect yourself from these sorts of fraud attempts is to ask questions. We urge members to consider the following before replying to an online ad or transferring funds to someone you do not know personally:

Does the reward or payment make sense for the task involved?

Am I sending money to someone (or a business) that I was previously unfamiliar with?

Am I being asked to return money via wire transfer, Western Union, or other methods?

Does the offer sound too good to be true?

As with any suspected scam attempt, please alert us to the issue so that we can assist you in preventing a loss. Call us at 800.991.2221 or stop by any of our offices to speak with a member service representative.

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