5 SCAMS TO AVOID THIS BLACK FRIDAY

Black Friday Scam Alert

Black Friday and Cyber Monday can be great fun – but they can also put you at great risk. Scams abound on the weekend that heralds the holiday shopping season, and you don’t want a phishing scheme or a bogus bargain to turn you into a Grinch. 

Here are 5 scams to look out for as you brave the frenzied crowds while trying to snag the best deals after Thanksgiving.  

1. Crazy deals that are actually bogus 

The noisy crowds and flashy ads on Black Friday can lead you to make rash decisions and spend more than you planned. But be careful not to leave your senses at home. 

An iPhone X retailing at just $12? A pair of genuine Ugg boots for just $9? These deals sound insane because that’s exactly what they are. And yet, thousands of people happily send their money to online stores that are advertising these laughable prices on Black Friday. And of course, once the scammers have your credit card information, they won’t hesitate to use it for their own shopping spree – all on your dime. 

Be smarter: Don’t believe any advertised price that is ridiculously low. It’s only bait used by scammers to lure you into their trap. Black Friday deals tend to fall within the 20-30% off range or an offer of free shipping. 

2. Black Friday gift cards for cheap 

In the weeks leading up to Black Friday, you might see an explosion of cheap gift cards being sold at online marketplaces. The gift cards are linked to big-name retailers and are offered for a fraction of their real value. 

These cards are usually stolen from their real owners. The victim of the theft will likely report the loss and the card will be disabled. And you’ll have forked over your hard-earned money for a card that’s not worth the plastic it’s made from. 

Be smarter: Don’t buy any gift cards that are retailing at a heavily marked-down price. 

3. Bait and switch 

Want to be the lucky winner of a brand new iPhone X? Just fill out a form with your personal details and take this survey. You may just be the proud new owner of the super-expensive phone! 

If you know anything about online scams, you’ll already recognize this one. Your personal details and a site whose authenticity you can’t verify are two things that should never meet. The sweepstakes is just the scammer’s bait to get at your information. And, with holiday expenses growing each year, it’s the perfect time to lure an innocent victim into thinking they’ve just saved a ton of money. 

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re safe from this scam just because you’re doing all your Black Friday shopping at the mall. “Bait and switch” scams can happen offline, too. 

The brick-and-mortar version of this scam is somewhat less nefarious. Retailers will advertise deals so amazing you’ll find yourself travelling across town and battling impossible traffic to grab these bargains. Once you finally reach the store, though, you’ll be told that those items are all sold out, but you can check out the items they do have in stock. You’ll be shown similar, but inferior, products and cheap knockoffs, or nothing you’re interested in at all. These scams are just a waste of your time and often your money, too. 

Be smarter: Don’t enter any sweepstakes or believe advertisements for heavily marked-down prices on sites and stores you’re unfamiliar with. 

4. Delivery problems 

With so much of your shopping happening online, you probably wouldn’t be surprised to receive an email claiming there’s been a problem with the delivery of one of your purchases. But if you get an email like this asking you to click on a link or download an attachment to arrange an alternative delivery date, you’re looking at a scam. You may also receive a message asking you to pay an extra fee for delivery after you’ve completed an order. Again, this email is bogus and you’re being scammed. Ignore these emails. And, if you have a problem with the delivery of your purchase, contact the seller or company directly. 

Be smarter: Never download anything or click on a link from an unverifiable source. 

5. Online purchases that can only be paid for with a wire transfer 

If you’re planning on going on an all-out spending spree this Black Friday, use your credit card. It offers you the most protection against purchases that don’t turn out to be what you expected. 

A debit card can be a good choice, too, if you’re only shopping at stores and retailers you trust and frequent often. 

Never agree to an online purchase demanding payment via money order or wire transfer. These are favorites among scammers since they are similar to paying with cash – once the money has changed hands, there’s almost no way you can get it back. 

Be smarter: When frequenting unfamiliar stores and sites, use your credit card. 

Be an educated shopper this Black Friday and outsmart scammers! 

Your Turn: Have you ever been targeted by a Black Friday scam? Share your experience with us in the comments below.

 

SOURCES:

https://www.finder.com/black-friday-scams

https://www.scam-detector.com/article/black-friday-scam

https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/6-scams-watch-black-friday-cyber-monday/

Gift Card Holiday Shopping Guide

With Thanksgiving only a few weeks away, holiday shopping is on the minds of many.  You might have gotten off to a solid start but have a few people left on your list that have you stumped when it comes to deciding what to get them. One of the simplest ways to check them off as complete is to pick up a few gift cards.  Clearly, they have become a go-to gift given that Americans spent nearly $32 billion on gift cards last year.  So it should come as no surprise that you’ll hear a lot more about gift cards as November rolls on. This is particularly true of your Facebook friends and family, who are probably choosing sides with one camp believing gift cards to be far superior to traditional gifts and the others finding them incredibly impersonal.  This guide will go over the case for and against gift cards and give you some tips on how to save money when shopping for them.
The case for gift cards:  Gift cards are more personal than cash because they show some thought about the recipient.  Gift cards are also more secure than cash, particularly when being shipped in the mail system.  They also have a favorable impact on your gift budget as opposed to bulkier gifts because shipping costs are much lower.
Gift cards also solve a persistent economic problem that makes an appearance in long-form think pieces within articles in the Atlantic or Slate every holiday season. Those pieces are usually accompanied by a few days of Facebook shares and retweets on the topic: deadweight.  This theory states that a gift giver can’t give an economically efficient gift because, if the item on which you spend $100 is worth $100 to the recipient, they would have bought it for themselves.  How many times have you received a sweater that doesn’t fit or a new gadget you don’t want?  Or how often have you received a gift that is close to what you wanted, but not quite right? It happens. In fact, an entire market exists for B-movies that are designed to look like the year’s most popular films, mainly to fool the unwary shopper at holiday time.  Gift cards solve this problem by letting the recipient choose his or her own gift; just ask any 11-year-old who gets a copy of “Triassic World” or “The Revengers” this year.
The case against gift cards:  Gift cards are impersonal compared to actual gifts. Nothing shows your thoughtfulness like the perfect gift.  If you want to make someone happy, the feeling of opening the big box will always beat out opening an envelope.  Finally, it’s really easy to create an awkward situation of imbalance.  When you receive a gift card for $100, but you gave that person one for $50, you end up feeling guilty. When the opposite occurs, it’s like you bought them a $50 gift and they got you nothing.  Putting a firm price on gifts makes any discrepancy very apparent.
As for deadweight, gift cards minimize the problem, but don’t eliminate it.  They still have some value less than cash (whether perceived or real), so you’re not fully realizing the economic potential of your gift.  In fact, the only way to fully beat deadweight is by giving a gift.  You can get them something they don’t know about, taking advantage of imperfect market knowledge.  You can make them something, taking advantage of the value of your time.  Or, you can buy them something they wouldn’t buy for themselves, taking advantage of some people’s unwillingness to indulge.  By the way, this paragraph is exactly why no one likes economists and why no one ever reads the articles on deadweight:  too much rationality and not enough jolliness.
How to buy a gift card:  Buying gift cards is easy, of course.  But that doesn’t mean you’re doing it right.  In fact, you shouldn’t pay full price for a gift card if you can avoid it.  Use gift card websites like giftcardgranny.com or giftcardzen.com to purchase gift cards at big discounts, sometimes as much as 50% off.  The sites offer protection from scams, and if you end up with a gift card for an odd amount, you can always use that gift card to buy a gift card from the retailer.  So, if you want to give a gift card to The Gap for $100, for example, you might find one that’s actually for $112, purchase it for under $100, and save the extra value for yourself.  You can often get larger gift cards at even steeper discounts, then turn them into multiple smaller gift cards.
Other ways to save money include looking for promotions.  Many chain restaurants offer gift card bonuses. For example, suppose you buy $100 worth of gift cards to a Chili’s.  You might be able to get a free $25 card for yourself.  It’s never a bad idea to get a free dinner, and during the busy holiday season, it’s even better.
Hopefully, this guide will make your holiday shopping smooth and easy.  This season shouldn’t be about stress and pressure.  If you find yourself overwhelmed, take a break and drink some eggnog.  If you find yourself short on cash, check out Mutual Credit Union’s personal loans that start at $500, or take advantage of the great rates on our credit cards!
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