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Blog Fraud/Identity Theft

Have a holly, jolly (fraud-free) Christmas

Fraud/Identity Theft
Have a holly, jolly (fraud-free) Christmas

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Here’s some help to avoid common holiday money scams so you and your family can keep it that way.

Donate directly to your favorite charitable organizations

December is National Giving Month. It’s the time of year where most of us feel the most generous and want to take extra steps to make sure those in need have a happy holiday season.

Many nonprofit organizations step up their fundraising efforts this month. You’ll probably receive a whole lot of legit emails from your favorites asking for donations. The downside to this is that a lot of scammers know it’s a great time to take advantage of the kindness of others.

Scammers can come after you in multiple ways. They might send a bogus email. They might reach out to you through Facebook Messenger. They could even have a bogus website placed in the top of Google search results.

A good way to see if the organization you want to give to is legit is to check them out on a watchdog website. Here are three good ones below.

Go ahead and start your taxes early, but do it safely

Getting an early start on your taxes is a great way to make sure you get your refund ASAP in 2023. But remember there are a lot of people out there who’d like to get ahold of your personal information so they can file a phony return and claim your refund for themselves.

The best ways to make sure you don’t get caught up in a tax scam include:

  • Filing your taxes as early as possible.
  • Keeping your paper tax returns in a safe place.
  • Never responding to emails claiming to be from the IRS (they’ll only reach out to you by mail).

You can also establish an “IP PIN” (Identity Protection PIN) to prevent someone from filing a tax return using your Social Security number.

View our list of 2022 year-end tax tips

Give gift cards to friends and family, not people asking for them online

Gift cards are a great gift for anyone. We even have gift cards available for you to purchase and gift when you visit a branch.

Unfortunately, they’re also a great tool for scammers to use to get you to give them money. If you ever receive an email or social media message pressuring you to pay or give them gift card information instead of making an actual transaction, it’s 100 percent a scam.

The Federal Trade Commission outlines exactly how a gift card scam works on its website. They even have a section dedicate to how to report scams if you encounter one.

You can also view this article from GiftCards.com that goes into more detail about seven different gift card scams.

Keep a vigilant eye on who you’re buying from on Facebook Marketplace

The PlayStation 5 came out about two years ago. It’s still hard to get one now! If you’re searching for one (or another in-demand holiday wish list item), seeing one available on Facebook Marketplace may be one of the brightest moments of your December.

One of the most frustrating things about Facebook Marketplace is that there isn’t a lot of oversight about what happens on the platform. It’s easy for scammer to make bogus listings and get your money without you getting the item in the description.

Reader’s Digest has an excellent article available that will help you spot 14 different Facebook Marketplace scams so you can keep your money and yourself safe.

Learn how to spot fake Instagram accounts

Instagram users spend an average of 28 minutes per day on the platform. One of the most interesting things about the platform is that you probably don’t personally know most of the accounts you follow.

If a random account you follow sends you a DM asking you to buy a product or send money for a charitable organization, your scam senses should start to go into overdrive. However, a lot of these DMs are really good at convincing educated, smart people that they’re in fact legit!

Reader’s Digest has more information available on how to spot fake Instagram accounts so you’re a more informed user.

Watch out for bogus Amazon emails

Most people take care of their holiday shopping online. There’s a good chance that you have a bunch of stuff in your Amazon cart right now. You might even get some surprise packages delivered that you forgot all about in the next few weeks.

Scammers know how much we rely on Amazon for shopping and take advantage of it. They’ll send out phony emails claiming to be from Amazon getting you to click a link within. These links can lead you to phishing sites asking you to update your account information or give a new credit card number. If you give out this information, scammers could gain control of your Amazon account or cards.

We have a detailed article available that helps you identify phishing emails and learn how to spot phony ones so you can keep your information safe.

Never give out your usernames or passwords

In every fraud article that we publish, we always want to stress the fact that you should never give out your usernames and passwords. 

Arsenal Credit Union will never reach out to you and ask for this information. Other reputable organizations, with call centers and customer support staff, will never ask for this information, either.

If you believe someone is reaching out to you and it’s a scam, feel free to report them to USA.gov, the Federal Trade Commission or even the Federal Bureau of Investigation.