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The 12 Scams Of Christmas

The holidays are a time of family togetherness and celebration. Scammers know you’re distracted, busy, and emotional. That’s why their schemes are so devilish. They get their own twist around Christmas time.

In the interest of keeping things in the holiday spirit, let’s look at 12 scams of Christmas. Don’t get taken in by these or similar schemes. Otherwise, you might be footing the bill for twelve drummers drumming and all the rest!

1.) Mobile malice

Be wary of “season-themed” apps that perform frivolous functions, yet demand top-level security access. An app that makes it look like there’s snow on your background image doesn’t need to send or receive texts. Such an app might send premium text messages and leave you holding the bill.

2.) E-card danger

Everyone with an email address will send these little flash programs. Scammers have designed some with malicious code. They can install data leaching programs on your computer and do untold damage. Don’t click links in emails unless you know the sender. Even then, if it looks a little out of the ordinary, it probably is.  Contact the sender to verify if they sent you the electronic holiday greeting.  If they didn’t send you the greeting, they may have already fallen victim and it would be good to let them know.

3.) Fake packages

You’ll be receiving unexpected packages this season. Scammers know this and will send realistic-looking delivery failure notifications via email or a counterfeit note on the door.  They expect you to follow up with them by clicking on the link contained in the email, or calling the number.  Clicking on the link may result in malware being downloaded on your device.  If you call, the scammer will request that you provide a debit/credit card info to pay the outstanding fee.  Instead, Head to your local post office, visit the delivery services true website to use their track a shipment feature, or call the parcel delivery service (Google the company name)  to check with a clerk before you hand over information via the internet or phone.

4.) Hotel “Lie”-Fi

The FBI issued a warning to this season’s travelers about a malicious pop-up at hotel chains around the country. This scam requests people install a foreign program before connecting to a hotel Wi-Fi network. This foreign program turns out to be data-stealing malware. Remember, Internet connections you don’t own or control can easily be used against you. Before you use the Internet at a hotel, ask yourself if it’s worth the risk. If you do need access, be wary of what you’re installing–there shouldn’t be a need to install anything.

5.) Festive spam

We’ve all gotten used to filtering out spam in our email. Now prepare yourself for it to take on a more holiday-oriented theme. Messages will suggest that off-brand Rolex watches and cheap pharmaceuticals would make excellent gifts. Be careful, though, because these companies might just be in the market for your personal information.

6.) Bogus gift cards

There’s a bonanza of savings to be had buying gift cards through second-hand retailers. Be careful, though, because many of these retailers might be a front for scammers. Gift cards may be invalid, used, or forgeries, and you’ll be left holding the bill.

7.) Fake charities

These crop up every time there’s a major disaster, but they also show up at the holidays. Leaflets and phone calls from organizations with familiar-sounding names will soon appear. To be safe, don’t give to any charity with whom you didn’t start the contact. Do your research on the alleged charity to make sure it is legitimate and give to charities whose values align with your own.

8.) Must-have gift scams

There will soon be an “it” gift. You’ll know it by the high demand, low supply, and hugely inflated prices. Almost on cue, websites will pop up offering the rare widget at unbelievably low prices. This is a scam – the advertiser doesn’t have the product and is only using the offer to harvest personal information or bilk you of your hard-earned money through sites like Craigslist or eBay, where they will seek payment through PayPal and never send the item you purchased.

9.) Christmas catfishing

“Catfishing” means pretending to be seeking a romantic partner on the Internet to dupe people. Scammers take advantage of the loneliness the holidays can evoke to trick people out of gifts or worse. As tempting as it is to believe in love stories at Christmas, keep your feet on the ground and practice safe Internet dating. A good rule of thumb: If you’re single at Halloween, stay that way until after New Year’s.

10.) Holiday vacation scams

If it’s cold and miserable where you are, it’s always tempting to go someplace tropical for a few weeks. If you’re thinking about getting away, be careful of unrealistic prices or “too-good-to-be-true” travel offers. Scammers have been setting up phony travel sites to harvest personal information. Only book through reputable websites.

11.) Devious Christmas games

If you’re facing a 5-hour flight and a 3-hour layover, it’s fantastic to have a distracting mobile game to pass the time. Be careful, however, not to download the wrong one. Mobile games can harvest data from your phone or steal password information. Always do a quick search to check the validity of the app you’re downloading and read the permissions carefully. A fun game should never ask for permission to send texts or send information to third parties.

12.) Free USB Tricks

Be careful with unsolicited gifts of “free” USB thumb drives. Security firm McAfee warns that many of these devices come pre-loaded with malware. Such scams often target company computers, so ensure you only use approved hardware on your work network. USB storage is cheap enough that you can pass on the freebies.

 

Consumers Targeted in Counterfeit Check Scam

We have been alerted to a counterfeit check scam where consumers have received counterfeit checks via FedEx as part of an online job offer that was accepted by the recipient.  The counterfeit checks may be accompanied in the FedEx package by a generic letter claiming to be from “Lisa Banks from the Payment Department.”  The letter instructs recipients to deposit the check into their personal account, and then send a portion of the funds back, usually by Western Union. The checks are not valid financial institution checks.

If you receive a FedEx package containing a check with the NASA FCU name and address and believe that it may be part of this counterfeit check scam, or if you would like to verify a check presented for deposit, please contact the Credit Union at 1-888-NASA-FCU (627-2328).

Tipping the Scales for Those in Need

2014 Holiday Food Drive

The holiday season is nearly upon us. It’s a time for giving and for counting our blessings and, this year, we have much to be thankful for. Let’s work together to pay it forward by giving to those in need through the 2014 NASA FCU Holiday Food Drive.

Last year, we gathered a remarkable 3,600 pounds of food. This year, we’re looking to tip the scales at 4,000 pounds. It’s an ambitious goal, and we will need your help to meet it. Please take your donations to your local NASA FCU Branch.

The Food Drive starts today and concludes Thursday, December 11th, at which time all donations will be collected and delivered to local area food banks. Every year the Holiday Food Drive is more successful than the previous year. We are very excited to have this drive once again.

Here are the top foods requested by food banks this year:

  • Proteins Canned meats such as tuna, chicken or fish (100% meat/fish packed in water or oil)
  • Peanut butter
  • Soups and stews
  • Rice and pasta
  • Cereal, including oatmeal
  • Canned vegetables, including tomatoes and tomato sauce
  • Canned or dried beans and peas
  • Canned fruits
  • Fruit juice (canned, plastic or boxed) Make sure it’s 100% juice.
  • Prepared box mixes, such as macaroni and cheese or Hamburger Helper.
  • Cake mixes and canned frosting
  • Shelf-stable milk, this includes dehydrated milk, canned evaporated milk and instant breakfasts.

Our food drive will help provide nutritious meals for many families in need this holiday season.

College Bound? Win up to $7,000!

Announcing the 2015 Mitchell-Beall-Rosen Scholarship Contest

Are you, or do you know, a high school senior gearing up for college next year? NASA FCU has great news! We’re accepting applications for the 2015 Mitchell-Beall-Rosen Scholarship Contest. Through the Contest, we will award scholarships in amounts up to $7,000 to one or more contest winners to assist with the costs of tuition, books and living expenses.

Applicants must be:

  • The primary owner of a NASA FCU account
  • A high school senior with an average grade of C or above
  • Under the age of 21

Scholarships are awarded based on the evaluation of a 1,000 word essay and a personal interview conducted by the Scholarship Committee. For more details and an application, go to nasafcu.com/scholarship or call 1-888-NASA-FCU (627-2328) today. Then, get ready. Get set. Write your essay today! All submissions must be postmarked by February 6, 2015.

Text Scam Warning

Consumers Targeted by Text Scam

We have been alerted to a text message scam where consumers have received text messages stating that their Visa Debit cards have been deactivated. They are then instructed to call to reactivate their cards. If consumers call the number, a prerecorded message asks them to input their debit/credit card information for “verification purposes.”

The text contains a generic message stating, ”Card Services Alert: You Visa card has been temporarily deactivated because we suspect unauthorized transactions may have or could occur. You may reactivate your card by calling us at 301-880-3305.”

The phone numbers used to send the text and receive returned calls are no longer in service, however it’s possible that the scammers may try to use or spoof a new local phone number.

If you received a similar text, please do not call the number provided. If you have called the number and provided your card information, please contact NASA Federal immediately so we can block your card and reissue a new one. Or, you can visit a branch office to obtain a new card.

As a reminder, NASA Federal only sends text alerts to members who have enrolled to receive them either through eAlerts or our new Debit Card Text Alert service (https://www.nasafcu.com/debitcardtextalerts/). Texts from the Debit Card Text Alert service will be branded with our name, and will contain the call back number of 1-866-763-3373. They will also contain a Case ID number and the option to reply with the STOP command to cancel your enrollment.

We’re Making a Difference in the Community

LightTheNightHelp Us “Light the Night”

Join NASA Federal on October 18, 2014 for the Light the Night® walk to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Come together at 5:00 p.m. at Freedom Plaza, Washington, D.C., with friends, family and coworkers to enjoy a two-mile evening walk followed by live entertainment and refreshments. Can’t walk with us? Make a tax-deductible donation to Light the Night instead. Visit nasafcu.com/lightthenight to join or donate today!