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Some things make an appearance every holiday season: bustling shopping malls, rows of homes strung with lights, office parties—and scams aimed at exploiting holiday shoppers and year-end philanthropists. We’ve highlighted five common scams waiting to grab your money like it’s the last slice of pie at the dinner table.
Too-Good-to-Be-True Travel Offers
A tropical getaway is always enticing in the midst of winter, and that’s exactly what scammers hope will make you take the bait. However, what seems like a dream vacation could end up being a financial nightmare, since you’ll end up paying for a trip you can’t take.
- Be skeptical of free trip offers.
- Know what’s included in a package deal. Get it in writing.
- Do your own travel research to verify the legitimacy of any deals.
Cheer-Free Online Offers
Searching for the perfect gift at a great price? Be careful when buying gifts online. Fraudsters are more focused than ever before on online scams since chip technology has made it more difficult for them to use your card at stores.
- Stick to well-known retailers. Remember—if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Watch out for look-alike websites. Check the web address for anything out of the ordinary like rewording or extra or misspelled words. Always look for the lock icon or a URL that begins with “https” before you click “Buy Now.”
- Be suspicious of debit- or gift cards-only payment options or requests for wire transfers.
Not-So-Jolly Job Postings
The ad promises to get you the perfect well-paying job. Who doesn’t want that? Phony job postings on social media sites whimsically detail a dream career or advertise temporary holiday jobs so you can earn extra cash. How can you tell the difference between a legitimate job and a phony one? One idea that may help is to remember that legitimate employers won’t ask for personal information up-front, ask for money or pressure you to act quickly before you’ve even had an interview. You can check out the company with the Better Business Bureau® (BBB) or do an online search. If there isn’t much there, you might want to pass.
- Emails from legitimate recruiters usually won’t come from free accounts like Gmail, AOL or Yahoo, so look for a company email address (e.g., John.Doe@xyzcorp.com).
- Don’t share personal information, pay an up-front fee to an employment agency or wire payments.
- If the pay being offered is way more than you’d expect, be wary.
Coal-Stuffing Prizes and Sweepstakes
“Congratulations! It’s your lucky day—you’ve won a car, cash or some other (incredible prize),” or so the email says. It’s most likely you’re just one of the many people who received this spam email or saw this pop-up ad that’s trying to trick you into handing over personal information or money, in hopes of receiving a reward.
- Never hand over any financial information or account numbers to individuals or companies you don’t know or trust.
- Be especially wary of notices that begin with “Dear Sir,” or requests to pay fees or shipping charges.
- Be suspicious of claims you won a contest you didn’t enter or pressure to act quickly.
The holiday season is meant for giving, but be sure to validate any charity to which you choose to donate. For help, use services like the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator® or CharityWatch.
- Ask for written information about the charity, so you can fact check.
- Beware of sound-alike charities—look it up before donating. Note that some scams use a similar sounding name of notable charities, and many often sound so similar, the spelling in the web address could be only slightly different from that of the legitimate charity.
At Navy Federal, we work to guard your finances from fraud—always keeping you and your financial protection in mind.
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To learn more, visit navyfederal.org/security.