Beware of Holiday Shopping Scams


The holiday season is upon us!  It’s time to trim the tree and shop for gifts.  During all the hustle and bustle of this season, it’s important to keep a vigilant watch out for scams.  Christmastime is the most notorious time of year for money scams, and if you are a victim of one, it can be potentially devastating.  

Here are some “popular” scams that are going around this time of year:

Gift Card Scams

For some people, gift cards are the perfect Christmas gift.  It’s quick, easy, and it lets the recipient buy whatever their heart desires.  If buying a gift card is on your shopping list this year, it’s best to buy them directly from the store and get it from the cashier.  

Online gift card discount and auction sites can be fraudulent.  Either they take your money and you don’t receive the intended gift card, or you receive the intended gift card, but it was stolen or doesn’t have the amount of money on it that it should.

Likewise, buying gift cards from the huge kiosks in general grocery stores can be a gamble too.  There is a scam where people take the codes off many of the cards so they can use them online.  You then buy one of those cards and they are not usable because the codes have already been used.  You are out money and have nothing to show for it.  So, again, it’s best to get one from the actual store you want the recipient to purchase from, and get it from the cashier.

Twinned Wi-Fi Scam

We’ve talked before about the perils of public wi-fi and how you shouldn’t use it for paying bills or checking bank accounts.  Now there is a new reason to be wary of your friendly coffee shop internet services–the Twinned Wi-Fi Scam.  This is where a person can make a new wi-fi signal that looks exactly like the complimentary one at the location where you are.  You click on that one, thinking it’s the right one, and now the hacker has all of your information on your computer.  It’s a scary thought, but that’s why it is important to only use encrypted sites and never enter your credit cards, go online shopping, or check your bank accounts over public wi-fi.

Package Delivery Scam

Online shopping for Christmas gifts has become huge, mostly for its convenience of being brought directly to your doorstep.  If you are a person who likes to shop online, beware of the Package Delivery Scam.  

This scam will send you an email with a subject line that says something similar to, “USPS Failed Delivery Notification.”  When you click to read it, it will tell you there has been a failed attempt to deliver your package or that your package was intercepted at some point.  It then gives you a link to click to find out when you can expect your package.  If you click this link, you will download a virus onto your computer that can gain access to all your private information.  It’s scary because these emails don’t look sketchy–in fact, they look official.  This scam isn’t just the USPS either, it has been seen with UPS and FedEx as well.  

The best thing to do in this scenario is to think rationally through your online purchases.  Are you even waiting on a package to be delivered?  If so, did you get tracking notifications about your purchase?  Go to the tracking website and see where the official tracking number has your package.  If it doesn’t say anything is wrong, you can be assured the Failed Delivery Notification email was a scam.  If you are unsure, you can always call USPS, UPS, or FedEx and ask about your package rather than taking the email at face value and clicking on the link.  Just think it out and be aware that this scam is out there.

Now that you know some of the common holiday shopping scams out there, you can be more wary of where you do your business. It’s important to keep a watch out for scams all year long, but it seems the holidays really amp up people’s attempts to steal your money and information.  Just be careful and use your head when shopping, and you should be able to avoid these scams this year.

 

Information on scams provided by mycreditunion.gov

Smart Financial Holiday Shopping Tips

It’s that time of year again.  The time of year where stores display all of their “best deals of the year,” and we as consumers are urged to spend, spend, spend.  If you aren’t careful, holiday shopping can get even the best of budgeters in a bind.  That’s why you have to be smart and intentional with your holiday shopping.  Here are a few ways to stay smart and spend wisely over the next month.

Have a Game Plan

The first tip to being smart with your holiday shopping is to have a game plan.  If you are being budget conscious this holiday season, a game plan will keep you from spending extra money.  Make a list of everyone you need to buy gifts for.  Write down how much you are wanting to spend for each particular person.  If you have any ideas of what you want to buy them, include that on your list too.  This sounds simple, but you would be surprised at how many people don’t take the time to do this and then end up overspending.  If you stick to your game plan, you will be spending your money wisely this holiday season.

Compare Prices

Now that you have your plan in place, it’s time to do some research.  Compare prices of the items you want to buy with different stores to find the best possible price.  You can do this through all the sales ads you get in the paper, or you can download an app like Flipp, which has all the sales ads in one place on your mobile device.  If you are out on the go and happen to see something you want to buy, you can always go to Amazon or download a price check app on your phone so you can compare prices on the spot in the store.  However you go about it, the point is to look at all the stores to get the best price before buying your gifts.

Use Cash Over Credit

It’s a proven fact that people spend more money when using their credit card rather than cash.  It has something to do with the mentality of actually having to hand over the paper bills versus blindly scanning your card through a reader.  So if your holiday shopping goals revolve around sticking to a budget or spending your money more wisely, then it is best to use cash for every gift you buy.  You will automatically be held accountable for what you spend because you will have to produce the actual money at the register.  Another perk to using cash to buy everything is that you won’t have any pesky credit card bills hanging around long after the holidays are gone.

Sign-Up For Emails

If you do a lot of shopping online, signing up for emails can be a great idea.  Most of the time, if you sign up for an email list on store websites, you will get a coupon delivered immediately to your inbox.  However, many people don’t sign up for them because they hate getting tons of “junk” mail from companies after the coupon is used.  If using your personal email address makes you uncomfortable, just set up an alternate email address that is solely for online shopping.  Direct all the emails and coupons to that address, and you won’t have to bog down your regular email with lots of junk.  You can check the alternate address every once in awhile to see if there are any more sales, deals, or coupons, but you won’t have to worry with it every day.  

Look Ahead To Next Year

The easiest way to stay on budget is to have room in your budget to spend.  If you plan ahead all year for the holidays, you will be way ahead of the game.  WCU offers a Christmas Club Savings Account that can help you toward your holiday goals.  With a Christmas Club account, you can get a certain amount automatically taken out of your checking account each month and put in a special savings account just for the holidays.  When the holidays roll around, you are given all the money in your account to spend on holiday gifts.  It’s an easy and effective way to save up for the holidays without even really noticing it.  Since it is spread out over the whole year, you won’t have to come up with a bunch of money come November to buy gifts.  Stop by your local WCU office to find out more about the Christmas Club.

Spending money wisely around the holidays isn’t hard, you just have to put some intention behind your actions to get the ball moving in the right direction.  With a little research, a game plan, coupons, and sales you will be on the right track for the holidays in no time!