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Scam-Proof Your Ho-Ho-Holidays   

Criminals love the holiday season. The distracting lights, shoppers, sales, and package deliveries are the perfect distraction for fraudsters to deck the halls with your hard-earned money. A whopping 75% of Americans experienced some form of con last year, according to the AARP. To help you from becoming a holiday-season statistic, let’s check our list of holiday scams you should watch for and avoid.

In-Person Shopping
As always, keep a grip on your wallet or purse. And never leave your shopping bags visible inside your vehicle while you’re away. Instead put everything in the trunk or under a blanket in the back seat. This can help ensure someone doesn’t break into your car while you’re busy buying gifts. Other shopping tips include:

  • Don’t buy gift cards from the rack. Ask for one from behind the cash register. Criminals can easily steal gift card numbers and wait for someone to purchase and activate the cards.
  • Only use one credit card for the whole season. This makes it easier to track your purchases and watch for possible fraudulent activity. For added security, download the free CardNav app for your Clearwater Credit Union debit and credit cards. CardNav lets you turn your cards on and off with a tap, set spending limits, and restrict types of purchases.
  • Don’t use public wi-fi while shopping in person. Hackers can get access to your phone or computer when you are connected to a free wi-fi access point. If you keep personal or financial information on that device, they’ll have access to that as well.

Online Shopping
Whether it’s an email, social media post, or online ad, we all get swept up in the online holiday shopping buzz. But criminals are lurking around every corner. Here are a few tips to help you avoid today’s online scams.

  • Watch for phony retailers. While it’s easy to spot a fake in person, it’s easy for fraudsters to create a good-looking, authentic website. Before making an online purchase from a new retailer, do some research. Look for information about them from the Better Business Bureau. If they don’t seem legitimate, shop somewhere else.
  • Skip the incredible savings. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Chances are, if you do accept the offer, you will never receive the goods you’ve paid for.
  • Be skeptical of all emails and ads. Phishing emails and ads are designed to get you to click them. Once you do, you’re taken to a realistic-looking fraudulent website designed to steal your personal information, passwords, money, or all three.
  • Buy from the Secondary Market Cautiously. These items include airline miles, gift cards, rewards points, and more. During the holidays, you could be buying stolen credit and points.

Mail Delivery Notifications & Alerts  
There is an incredible surge in the number of package deliveries during the holidays, according to the U.S. Postal Service. That high volume is ripe for fraud with stolen packages. Other concerns include the many methods used to steal your personal information or gain access to your smartphone or computer.

  • Carefully read all delivery notice emails: Scammers create fake emails and websites that appear to be from the Post Office, FedEx or UPS to trick you into sharing your username and password. Scammers might also ask for the tracking number of a package. Once a criminal has that information, they can re-route the delivery.
  • Don’t click every text message link: Because most people have a long list of packages being delivered during the holidays, criminals will send fake tracking text messages. The links in these text messages take victims to fraudulent websites where criminals can either trick you into sharing private information, or they can install malicious apps your phone.

Protect Your Finances and Holiday Spirt
Carefully inspect emails for authenticity, use strong and different passwords everywhere you shop, and if you think you may have become the victim of holiday fraud, report it. First, contact Clearwater Credit Union and your other financial institutions to prevent possible losses. Additionally, contact the FBI Crime Complaint Center at IC3.gov, and the Montana Department of Labor and Industry at uid.dli.mt.gov/report-fraud.

Happy Holidays from Clearwater Credit Union  
Whether you’re holiday shopping, looking for financial advice, or simply planning ahead for the future, Clearwater Credit Union is here for you. But that doesn’t mean we’ll call and ask for your account number, credit card information, or passwords. We already have that information. If you get a call from someone pretending to be a Clearwater team member, hang up and call us using a number you know and trust.