• November 13, 2023
  • Posted by Austin Vaive
  • 5 read

Stay Safe and Avoid Scams this Holiday Season

GECU Voices brings you guidance and insight from experts within the Credit Union. Today’s blog post was penned by Austin Vaive, Information Security Manager. 

With the holidays quickly approaching, it’s important to be aware of how scammers and cyber criminals use the busy season to craft convincing scams. They do this to trick you into providing sensitive information or to send money. Here are some of the most common scams reported during the holiday season, and information on how you can spot them! 

Avoid these common holiday scams 

Delivery notification scams

A common scam in use around the holidays involves package delivery notifications. This scheme generally starts with a text message or email notifying you that a package is either scheduled for delivery, or that there was an issue with the delivery that requires you to click a link. Since many people have a lot of packages being delivered this time of year, and many are gifts that are time-sensitive, these scams can be especially convincing. These messages appear to come from either the vendor that “sold” you the product, like Amazon, or a delivery company. 

These scams rely on a sense of surprise and urgency to entice you to click without fully realizing the message may be a scam. Clicking this link or following the instructions provided by the scammer could lead to your accounts being compromised! 

Social media and marketplace scams

Another common type of scam involves social media posts and listings made on marketplace apps. A strategy used by scammers is to list high-demand holiday gift items at a very low price, enticing last-minute shoppers to inquire about purchasing the item to complete their holiday shopping list. 

Oftentimes, these scams will involve tricking the victim into providing payment for the item while the scammer has no intention of producing the item in question. In general, it is best to avoid paying via digital means under the promise of the item being shipped by the seller. If a seller is requesting that you pay via PayPal or other peer-to-peer payment solutions with the promise that the item will be shipped to you once payment is received, it is often a scam. A best practice to avoid these scams is to only shop at reputable retailers or arrange an in-person cash transaction for the item. 

Gift card scams

One of the most frequent scams regardless of the season is gift card scams. Bad actors like to target elderly individuals and attempt to impersonate friends, family, and government agencies to further embed themselves. 

The scam involves gaining the victim’s trust and coercing them into purchasing gift cards and sending the codes to the scammer. Since gift cards are generally nonrefundable, once the codes are sent, there are few options for the victim to recover their funds. 

Relative and romance scams

Bad actors may impersonate a relative or a potential romantic partner to trick the victim into sending money or gift cards. While this scam has many similarities to the gift card scam, it can be much more impactful if the victim fully falls for the trap, since the scammer will attempt to access the victim’s accounts and finances to extract the funds. 

The scammer will initiate contact over phone calls, text messages, email, or social media and attempt to build up trust with the victim over time. At this point, they will ask for bank account information or request to be sent funds for a seemingly legitimate reason. Once funds are sent, the scammer will sometimes even attempt to extract additional payments by claiming the original amount was not enough to cover whatever phony expense was the justification in the first place. 

The script for these scams typically starts by them calling an individual and attempting to fool them into thinking they are a relative in need of assistance, such as a grandchild that needs money to post bail. The scammers can seem very convincing and exploit the victim’s desire to help their family as a means of furthering the scam. 

Luckily, despite how convincing and prevalent these scams can be, there are a few easy strategies you can implement to ensure you don’t fall for them, such as:

  • Verify the identity of anyone claiming to be a family member or friend by contacting them via an alternate communication method. For example, if you receive a call from an unknown number claiming to be your grandchild, call them back at a saved number from your contacts list, or contact another family member to attempt to validate the legitimacy of the caller. You can also ask them detailed questions that only that person would know to further confirm their identity before taking any action or sending funds. 
  • Look out for the common red flags of a scam, such as:
    • Strange grammar or spelling errors in text
    • A sense of urgency to get you to act
    • A deal that seems “too good to be true” 
  • Be wary of any unsolicited texts, calls, or emails. If you aren’t expecting the communication, you should be very careful to ensure it is legitimate before clicking any links or providing information. 

Here at General Electric Credit Union (GECU), we’re committed to educating our members about common scams so they can reduce their chances of falling for one. If you ever fall for a scam and divulge your personal or banking information, report it to GECU immediately. We’ll take the necessary steps to protect your accounts. 

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