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Watch Out for These Holiday Fraud Threats


It’s no coincidence that the busiest season for shopping coincides with the highest period for fraud. Every day, fraudsters target consumers with an array of legitimate seeming propositions. But during the holidays, fraudsters make extra efforts to trick and defraud consumers.

Here are the top fraud threats coming this holiday season:

  1. Fake Retail Sites. Are you using a deal that seems way too good to be true? That might be because it is. Fake retail sites are websites set up to look like real merchants (including well-known brands), but actually leads to a fraudster-held account. Fake retail sites have become especially popular in the age of social media, where posts and accounts look legitimate but are not.

What to watch out for? Domain name and/or website copy contains misspellings, IP address is non-U.S., website doesn’t have a HTTPS (secured) URL, or generally looks off.

  1. Mystery Shopping. Everyone is looking to pick up a little extra cash this time of year. Mystery shopping scams (or secret shopping scams) take advantage of that desire by luring victims into job opportunities where they ‘test’ products and services, but are first required to pay the employer for a fee or license. In reality the job doesn’t actually exist.

What to watch out for? Shopping or dining-related job opportunities that require you to pay the employer first, wiring money to your employer or depositing a check into your bank account on their behalf.

  1. Charity Scams. Scammers are always finding new lows. Charity scams take advantage of our generosity. Fraudsters pose as a legitimate charitable organization and steal donations before they’re discovered.

What to watch out for? High-pressure pitches through phone, email or in-person; to donate, go to accredited charities.

  1. Package Delivery Scams. With many consumers utilizing online channels for shopping, delivery scams are also increasing. Emails, texts and calls looking to validate shipping information will direct consumers to give personal information directly to fraudsters. Links will direct you to sites, some even using popular shipping service logos like FedEx and UPS, where fraudsters will look to capture your information.

What to watch for? Email addresses that are not @{insert retailer name}.com. Spelling or grammar that is off. Logos that look stretched or grainy. The best way to track packages is to go directly to the website where you purchased the goods initially and call or use their online tracking system. DO NOT CLICK links in emails or text messages.

  1. Prepaid/Gift Card Scams. Any business or person that demands payment in gift cards or prepaid cards is attempting to complete a scam. No legitimate business operates this way and funds delivered via prepaid or gift cards are not recoverable in any way.

What to watch for? Urgency or speed of payment. Gift cards or prepaid cards are not the faster way to get someone money. Scammers prey on consumers by creating urgency. The faster they get you to turn over gift card numbers the faster they have access to your money.

The best thing to do this holiday season is to slow down and consider all of the details of a transaction before entering personal information, providing payment details or shelling out money of any kind.

If you believe you are a victim, notify the credit union or your other financial institution(s) and got to or call 877-438-4338 or TDD 202-326-2502 to file a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The credit union also recommends you file a police report.