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Holiday Scams (and how to avoid them)

Nov 30, 2018

The holidays are here – a time for friends, holly berry branchfamily, and (unfortunately) fraudsters. Because we want to make sure you and your family stay safe, we’re sharing some common holiday scams, so you can be sure to avoid them.

Look-Alike Websites

You may see more emails in your inbox announcing deals, gifts, and sales. While they may look legitimate, the links could lead to look-alike websites meant to trick you into entering private information or give scammers an opportunity to download malware onto your computer. Here are some tips to help identify malicious sites:

  • Review the sender’s address. Businesses often have propriety email addresses that end with their company name, like this:
  • Look for misspellings throughout the email.
  • Hover over links without clicking to see where they reroute.
  • When entering sensitive information into a website, make sure you’re using a secure site that begins with https:// versus http://.

Grandparent Scams

Scammers target seniors and pretend to be a grandchild or other family member. They claim they’ve been in an accident, arrested, hospitalized, or have some other urgent issue, and need money sent immediately to resolve it. Some things to note:

  • If you’re ever asked to wire money or send gift cards in place of making a payment with a credit card, be very wary.
  • When you get one of these “urgent” emails, verify the situation by calling the family member in question. If you can’t reach that person, ask other family members if the claims are true.


‘Tis the season for holiday cards. Some friends and family may be going high-tech by using e-cards, but unfortunately, so are scammers. Be wary if:

  • The sender's name is not easily visible.
  • You’re required to enter personal information to open the card.
  • An attachment to the email ends in “.exe”, which indicates an execute command and could download a virus. Do not open it!

Fake Shipping Notifications

You’ll likely receive several delivery notifications throughout the holiday season for gifts purchased online, but some of these announcements may be phishing scams. These false notification emails often use a legitimate business name and logo to trick you into opening the email and allowing thieves to gain access to personal information and passwords. Remember that:

  • Most online vendors provide tracking information that can be used to verify where your items are, and they identify the delivery company.
  • You’re not required to pay money to receive your package. You already made that payment when you bought the item.
  • Delivery services do not need personal information to deliver your items.

Phony Charities

Charities often get a boost during the holiday season since we’re all in the giving spirit, but scammers will try to take advantage of that by posing as charities or needy individuals soliciting donations. Here are a few tips for spotting those scammers:

  • Look for sound-alike names.
  • Verify your charity at
  • Review the charity’s website to make sure they specify how donations will be used to address the issues they claim to combat.

Credit Card

There are many scams related to credit cards that happen year-round, but here are some to watch out for this holiday season:

  • Request for payment due to exceeding the credit limit.
  • Calls regarding a problem with a credit card or offering assistance with fraud. If in doubt, call the institution (using the number you have on file for them, not a number offered in an email).
  • Offers to lower your interest rate over the phone, or an offer of a new card with a lower rate.

If you have questions or concerns, visit our Security Center at or give us a call. We have a whole team at RCU focused solely on our Members’ security.

Happy holidays!

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