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How to avoid these eight holiday scams

Here is a list of common scams fraudsters use and what members should look out for during the holiday season.

Denver, CO — December 1, 2022 – With the holidays in full swing, Westerra Credit Union is being proactive in protecting members from possible scams that increase during this time. Financial fraud takes place year-round; however, it is particularly common during the holiday season and we are eager to share helpful tips on identifying and avoiding these particular scams.

Below is a list of common scams fraudsters use, and what consumers and members should look out for during the busy holiday season.

1. Charity scams

When scammers play on consumers’ generosity by pretending to be a charity.

Red flags

  • Spoofed website

  • Unsolicited phone call

  • Fake phone number: Keep in mind that scammers change their caller ID to make a call look like it is from a local area code

  • Scammers use names that sounds similar to real charities

  • Scammers claim that your donation is tax deductible


  • Research charities before you donate and make sure that the charity is legitimate

  • Make sure you know who you are donating to before your click on any links from an unsolicited email

  • Refer to the following website for additional information:

2. Social media and online shopping scams

When scammers offer deals that are too good to be true and the victim ends up paying for an item and giving away personal information, compromising their identity and ending up with nothing in return.

Red flags

  • Social media posts and websites that offer vouchers and gift cards as incentives

  • “Known” friends sharing links for online surveys

  • Brand name merchandise at extremely low prices


  • Do your due diligence to check the legitimacy of a website prior to providing personal information

  • Steer clear of untrustworthy sites with unrealistic discounts

3. Gift card scams

For example, fraudsters will scratch off the activation code and cover it back up for someone else to purchase. Red flags

  • Altered or damaged back of gift card


  • Purchase gift cards in store and ensure they have not been tampered with

  • Purchase egift cards directly from retailer or a reputable site

4. Temporary holiday jobs scams

Fraudsters know that retailers are using this time to attract seasonal employees. Beware of fraudulent job ads aimed at stealing money and personal information from applicants. Red flags

  • Employer asking for a payment upfront to start work

  • Jobs that do not require an interview

  • Outrageous wage for simple tasks


  • Do a Google search of the company name and address to make sure it matches what has been provided

  • Research the company on the Better Business Bureau website

  • Never work for a company prior to being officially hired

  • Never send money to a job or employer — they should be providing you with pay

5. Delivery scams

You receive a message, phone call or email that informs you that a pending delivery was delayed. You may be prompted to click on a link or provide your personal information so that they may retrieve more details pertaining to the package. There may also be times where you may receive an unsolicited check with instructions on how to complete the deposit. Fraudsters may also attempt to trick you into depositing fraudulent checks and request that funds are sent back via a check or gift cards. Red flags

  • Unsolicited communications (email, phone call or letter in the mail)


  • Never click on links within an unsolicited email

  • Never provide personal information to unknown individuals

  • Never deposit an unsolicited check

  • Track your packages through a verified or official website

6. Travel scams

When scammers promise a free vacation or a bargain-priced timeshare or vacation rental. Never provide personal information for the promise of a vacation deal. Red flags

  • Unsolicited communications (email, phone call or letter in the mail)

  • Significantly low prices on a vacation/timeshare

  • Requests for personal information such as bank account number, social security number, etc.


  • Never click on links within an unsolicited email

  • Never provide personal information to unknown individuals

  • Avoid following links to their website — this could potentially be a spoofed website

7. Letter from Santa scams

This scam preys on families who participate in Letters from Santa. There are spoofed sites that will request personal and specific information about children. The provided information may contribute to identity theft. Red flags

  • Unsolicited communications (email, phone call or letter in the mail)

  • Site that requests personal information

  • Site that requests credit card information as a form of payment


  • Never click on links within an unsolicited email

  • Ignore unsolicited phone calls

  • Do your research

  • Keep an eye out for poor spelling and grammar

  • If you do decide to pay for the letter, make sure that you pay through a secure channel

8. Puppy scams

‘Tis the season to introduce a new member to the family. However, pet scams are on the rise and you should make sure to request to see the pet in person prior to making a purchase.

Red flags

  • Purchasing the pet sight unseen

  • Not being able to view the pet in person or by live video

  • Using a wire, cash app and or gift cards as a payment method


  • Research your breed to get a sense of a fair price

  • If the purchase sounds too good to be true, it could possibly be a fraudulent offer

  • Conduct a reverse image search — if the same picture appears on multiple sites it is likely fraud

  • Consider your local animal shelter as an option

Westerra Credit Union is passionate about ensuring financial safety. Be alert throughout the holiday season, become familiar with the potential dangers and do not hesitate to reach out with questions or concerns. If you suspect your information has been compromised, contact Westerra or the impacted financial institution right away. Enjoy this wonderful time of year by being precautious and shopping smart. Learn more about how to protect yourself from fraud, and keep your accounts and information safe on our Security Center.

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