It’s the most wonderful time of the year – for scammers. As we are busy buying gifts for loved ones, scammers are hard at work on their next ploy to take our money, information and identity. Before you start shopping, learn our tips to proactively avoid fraud through the holidays.

  1. Use a Credit Card for Holiday Purchases

Credit cards offer advanced protection while shopping in-store, online and within an app. With an APGFCU® credit card, you have the power to freeze your card at any time, be notified immediately of suspicious activity, block certain transactions and more. Plus, you can dispute any unauthorized transactions. Learn more about APGFCU Credit Cards.*

  1. Avoid Requests to Pay With a Gift Card

Gift cards can be a great gift for family and friends, but it is important to beware of anyone requesting you to pay with a gift card. Scammers will often try to persuade their victims into purchasing a gift card to pay for a product or emergency. This is because as soon as the money is loaded onto the gift card, there is no way to get it back. No matter what their story is, anyone demanding to be paid via a gift card is a scammer.

  1. Research Before You Donate

As the year comes to a close, you may be inclined to give back and make a charitable donation. However, scammers often take advantage of generosity this time of year by asking you to contribute to a charity, which does not exist. Be sure to research any charity before you donate to know exactly where your contribution is going.

  1. Share Joy, Not Information

The hustle and bustle of the holidays can cause you to rush through your gift-buying – which is just what scammers are hoping for. To keep your information, finances and identity secure through the New Year and beyond, never divulge your account information, personal identification number, Social Security number or other sensitive data, no matter how tempting the sale.

  1. Only Buy From Trusted Sources

Protect yourself this season by only shopping on sites with “https” in the address. This proves the website is secure. When shopping on an app, be sure to explore what they do with your data and how they use it. Many apps collect your data, but secure ones will typically disclose how they use it to keep you protected. You can also check out reviews and recommendations from others about a seller, product or warranty.

  1. Be Wary of Too-Good-to-be-True Sales

Many stores offer blowout sales during the holidays, but ones that don’t make financial sense for the seller may be a sign of fraud. Scammers may be trying to get your information by dangling a massive sale in front of you, or con you into paying for an item without the intent to send it out to you. If it looks too good to be true, it likely is.

  1. Stop and Think

Scammers will always try to rush you into doing what they want. It can be easy to fall into a scam and believe what the person on the other end is saying. Remember, legitimate companies do not and will not pressure you into anything.

  1. Keep an Eye on Your Account

If your information does fall into the wrong hands during a data breach or if you misplaced your card, you will want to know right away so you can take action. Regularly examine your account activity for unexplained charges. If you find any, you can freeze your card and file a dispute to get your finances back on track.

  1. Track Deliveries

With so much buying going on during the gift-giving season, you may lose track of what you ordered. Scammers will often charge you for an item and then never send it to you, hoping you will forget or order another one. If you placed an order for an item and it did not arrive, call the company’s customer support line. If you feel this was a scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

  1. Update Your Passwords

As with any time of year, having unique passwords protecting every one of your accounts is crucial to your security. Advancing technology is making it easier for criminals to hack your accounts, so passwords need to be stronger than ever. Check out our checklist on what makes a strong password.

  1. Check Your Credit Report

Your credit report reflects your recent activity – good or bad. Taking a look at your report regularly can provide insight into your finances and alert you to any irregularities. You can now pull a free copy of your credit report weekly from each of the three credit bureaus: TransUnion, Experian or Equifax.

  1. When in Doubt, Talk to Someone You Trust

It is always helpful to run a situation, especially a possible scam, by a friend, family member or financial advisor. They will likely have a different take on the events and may be able to shed light on courses of action.

If you believe you have been a victim of fraud, report your experience to the FTC and find out steps you can take to protect yourself. Visit our Security page for more information.

*All loans are subject to credit approval.