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How to Spot This Season’s Holiday Scams - Part 2

Every year, toymakers release their next big thing that drives kids crazy and sends parents into a frenzy. Just like toymakers, fraudsters are upping their game as the holidays approach. The best protection against scams is understanding how they work.

This article continues with even more popular scams that will surely make an appearance this holiday season. From deceptive deals to seasonal job scams and other online holiday cons, we’re here to help you stay safe and keep your spirits high.

1. Online Sales Scams
We’ve all seen the ads littered throughout our newsfeeds while scrolling on social media. Scammers will create social media offers that lead you to a fake online store designed to steal your credit card details and personal information. Many of these ads promote personalized items, which may seem like the perfect gift for your loved ones. However, too often, that perfect gift never shows up. Instead, you find that scammers have stolen your money and identity.

How to protect yourself: Don’t assume a website or product is genuine just because you saw it on social media. Instead, try searching for the item on reputable websites and only make purchases from trusted sellers.

2. Deals on Hard-to-Find Items
If you come across prices that seem too good to be true, they probably are. In the rush to obtain the most sought-after gifts of the season, many shoppers ignore the warning signs of a scam. Fraudsters may list the season’s popular items on platforms like Facebook Marketplace, then ask you to send money via apps like CashApp or Zelle, where the payments can’t be reversed.

How to protect yourself: Trust your instincts. If you find a great deal, do your due diligence before purchasing. Don’t fall for sob stories about why the purchaser must get rid of the item. They often fabricate emotional stories, knowing that they will pull at people’s heartstrings, and they may act against their better judgment. Don’t send payments via CashApp, Zelle, or any similar app to anyone you don’t know. These payments are like cash - once the money is sent to the scammer, it’s long gone.

3. Seasonal Job Scams
Job scams are a common problem year-round, but they are especially prevalent during the holiday season as people look to make a little extra money. These fake jobs are often advertised as no experience required, easy work with great pay, and sometimes don’t require an interview. You might be required to purchase equipment or software from them to get set up, or they may offer to pay you a bonus before you start the job. But in all cases, the scammers’ goal is to either steal your personal information during the hiring process or trick you into sending them money for “supplies and training.”

How to protect yourself: Easy-to-spot red flags include if they only want to communicate with you via a messaging service, like WhatsApp, or if you’re hired immediately with no interview process. Do a thorough internet search of the company, checking sites like Glassdoor for reviews and comments about the company. Beware of anyone who asks for your personal information right away, like your financial account information for direct deposit, Social Security Number, or tax information.

4. Family Member in Need Scams
This is another scam that is a problem year-round but peaks during the holidays. Scammers will text or email you, posing as a family member in trouble and needing money - usually through wire transfers or gift cards. The scammers may even call you, pretending to be a loved one, by using advanced voice-cloning technology. This scam primarily targets senior citizens.

How to protect yourself: A common warning sign of this type of scam is that they will ask you not to tell anyone else in the family about it. This is in hopes that they can carry out the fraud undetected by anyone who would cast doubt on the situation. Always trust your gut and call the family member directly to confirm if it’s them and if they need help. Make sure you teach your elderly family members about the warning signs of this scam so you can ensure they don’t fall victim.

5. Secret Santa Scams
Some fraudsters will twist the traditional Secret Santa game to trick you into sending money and gifts, as well as sharing your personal information. You’re asked to provide your name and address, perhaps along with the contact information of a few other friends to expand the game. You’re then asked to send money or small gifts to a fellow stranger on the list. In return, you’re supposed to receive multiple gifts from other people participating. Unfortunately, the whole thing is a scam, and any gifts, money, or information sent goes directly into the hands of the scammers. These scams are technically pyramid schemes, which are illegal in the United States.

How to protect yourself: Ignore posts on social media encouraging people to participate in this “game,” and spread the word to make sure your friends are aware. Report these posts on the social media platform if you come across them.

We’re Here to Help!
It may seem like there’s no end in sight to scams these days, but for the most part, many of them share the same warning signs. As long as you keep safe practices in mind, like not sharing your personal or financial information with strangers, you’ll be prepared to recognize a scam when you see it.

If you believe you were a victim of a scam, please get in touch with us immediately. You can visit the Credit Union or call 410-687-5240 to speak with a team member.

Each individual’s financial situation is unique and readers are encouraged to contact the Credit Union when seeking financial advice on the products and services discussed. This article is for educational purposes only; the authors assume no legal responsibility for the completeness or accuracy of the contents.