6 Black Friday scams & how to avoid them

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You can save hundreds of dollars on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But if you’re not careful, you could also get ripped off by scammers taking advantage of your eagerness to knock out most of your holiday shopping.

 

If you’re like many consumers, you’re probably counting the days until you can get the best deals on holiday gifts for your friends and family on Black Friday, Nov. 25, and Cyber Monday, Nov. 28. Chances are, you may plan to purchase a few bargain items for yourself, too. After all, who can resist deep discounts on toys, clothing, electronics, and more?

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Every holiday season, thousands of people fall for holiday scams, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). In 2020, non-delivery scams throughout the year cost American consumers more than $265 million. Credit card fraud caused another $129 million in losses. So, of course, scammers love to take advantage of holiday scamming opportunities.

 

But that doesn’t mean you have to become a holiday scammer’s next victim.

 

Before you pull out your credit card for online and in-store shopping this holiday season, check out these six scams to avoid.

1. Phony order confirmations

When you’re on an online shopping roll, scammers know that it can be hard to keep track of all those orders and delivery times. That’s why sending phony order confirmations is one of the top Black Friday and Cyber Monday scams.

 

With this scam, you receive an email or text message confirming an online order and asking you to click on a link or attachment. But it’s actually just a “confirmation” for items you never ordered.

 

The purpose: To download malicious software (malware) to your computer or device or to steal your identity by asking for personal information.

 

Never click on links or attachments from senders you don’t recognize. Keep track of your orders on a spreadsheet so that if you get one of these messages, you’ll know it’s a scam.

 

Find out: Don’t Fall for These Sneaky Package Delivery Scams

2. Fake tracking links

This scam is similar to the phony order confirmation but includes a fake package tracking link in an attachment. Don’t open the attachment or click on the link.

 

“Legitimate retailers won’t send tracking numbers in an attached file,” warns security software provider McAfee. “If you see anything like that, it’s surely a scam designed to inject malware onto your device. In the case of a link, the scammers aim to send you to a site that will steal your personal info.”

3. Non-delivery scams

When you see a great deal online and purchase the item but don’t receive an email confirmation or your package, you’ve likely been swindled by a non-delivery scam. No matter how good the price, avoid buying items from retailers you’re not familiar with.

 

Stick with reputable retailers for Black Friday and Cyber Monday purchases.

 

Find out: Holiday Debt Stress: How To Beat It In One Day

4. Gift card payments

When it comes time to pay for an online purchase, if the retailer says you must pay with gift cards, don’t fall for it. Cybercriminals love this trick because it’s easy to steal your money and there are no fraud protections on what’s considered a cash payment, so there’s no way you can get your money back.

 

Don’t buy anything from a retailer that asks for gift card payments. Shop elsewhere and always pay with a credit card, since most credit cards come with zero liability for fraudulent purchases.

5. Fake charity pleas

If the holiday season makes you want to help others, you may want to make donations or buy gifts for those in need. Be careful, though. Criminals impersonating charities are also hoping you’ll give them the gift of allowing yourself to get scammed.

 

Fake holiday charity scams include asking you to pay with gift cards, cryptocurrency, money orders, or wire money.

 

“To avoid this [scam], never make an impulse donation in response to an ad or plea on social media,” says software provider Norton. “Take time to research charities using resources that track and rate nonprofits.”

Find out: Debt.com’s Cheap and Easy Holiday Gift Guide

6. Imposter websites

Scammers may “spoof” legitimate retailer websites, hoping to lure their victims into providing log-in and credit card information, and buying non-existent items.

 

If you get tricked into this scam, make sure you change your login credentials if you have an account on the actual retailer’s website, since the scammer probably obtained your password when you logged in to the imposter site.

 

This article originally appeared on Debt.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

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Scammers are at it again. Student loan borrowers beware

 

There are several legitimate programs that federal student loan borrowers can utilize to have their federal student loans forgiven. Unfortunately, there are also student loan forgiveness program scams. Confusion surrounding loan forgiveness can create space for scammers to thrive. Most commonly, companies will promise something that cannot be done, or charge an upfront fee for something that can be done online for free.

 

The real trick for borrowers will be distinguishing between a company that is providing student loan counseling in a fair and legitimate way from a company that is trying to take advantage of unsuspecting students.

 

Related: Quiz: Should I refinance my student loans?

 

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There are millions of students paying college student loans and the idea of having those student loans forgiven can be very appealing. There are legitimate student loan forgiveness programs that are available to federal student loan borrowers who meet the program requirements.

 

These include programs like Public Services Loan Forgiveness or the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program. There may be other options for forgiving student loans, depending on your background and program requirements.

 

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A student loan forgiveness scam is when a service makes a promise that they cannot deliver on. For borrowers looking to get out of student loan debt quickly, these promises can seem promising. Unfortunately, scams may offer impossible promises like immediate loan forgiveness or may trick student loan borrowers into disclosing personal information.

 

 

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Student loan scams can take many forms. Be wary of scams that come in the form of unsolicited calls, texts, or emails.

 

 

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If you receive an unsolicited call asking you for information about your student loans, pay close attention. Some calls may present opportunities to cancel student loan debt. In general, any call offering a fast solution to pay off your student loans is a scam. The U.S. Department of Education offers legitimate forgiveness programs and opportunities to lower your student loan payments, all of which can be accessed at no cost to borrowers directly through their loan servicers.

 

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a sample of what these calls might sound like, so you can be prepared.

 

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Texting is another avenue for scammers to contact student loan borrowers. These communications might include the need to “act immediately” or tout enrollment for debt relief is taking place on a first-come first-served in order to inspire a false sense of urgency.

 

Text scams are newer on the scamming spectrum, so consumers may not be expecting them. Instead of responding to the message, call your student loan servicer on the number listed on their website. In general, most student loan servicers will not conduct business via text messages.

 

 

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When it comes to student loan scams, the short rule of thumb is that anything that sounds too good to be true, probably is. For example, if a company claims that with an up-front fee that your loans will automatically be forgiven, it is a scam. No program exists where loans are “automatically” forgiven for a fee.

 

If you have a feeling that you might be getting scammed, do a thorough internet search for the company. More than likely, someone else has been in contact with, and possibly taken advantage of by, this company.

 

The problem with relying on an internet search to look for a scam? Not every scam will have been identified through an internet search, as they change their names and phone numbers often to avoid the background research a consumer might conduct. Here are a few common techniques used by student loan scammers.

 

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Any student loan company offering to help you for an upfront fee is a scam. According to the FTC, it is illegal for companies to charge you before providing assistance. And importantly, borrowers can get help directly from their student loan servicer or Department of Education at no cost.

 

 

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Another huge red flag — organizations offering to provide immediate or complete student loan forgiveness. Most government loan forgiveness programs require a record of qualifying payments and or employment certifications depending on the program.

 

 

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Broadly speaking, legitimate companies won’t ask you to verify personal details out of the blue. If you receive a call, email, or text asking you to disclose your passwords or any other sensitive personal information, think twice before responding. Sharing personal details could allow scammers to access your loan information, or other important accounts.

 

 

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Attention to detail and diligence in communication can help you avoid some common student loan scams. Here are eight student loan scams to avoid.

 

 

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Beware of any promise that seems too good to be true. Student loan forgiveness takes time, period. A company can only help you fill out paperwork for a forgiveness program; they cannot forgive your loans.

 

 

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Many scams rely on obtaining an upfront fee for something that either cannot be done (immediate loan forgiveness) or something that can be done for free, online (apply for a loan forgiveness program). You should only agree to payment once the company has completed the service in question.

 

 

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In general, only federal loans are eligible for loan forgiveness programs. Be cautious of any company that tells you that they can get your private loans forgiven. Private loans don’t typically offer forgiveness programs.

 

 

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Many scams start with a student loan forgiveness call. The Department of Education, who directs federal loan forgiveness programs, will never call you. If they need to correspond with you, they will by mail.

 

 

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No company will ever make your student loan payments for you. You can pay them for a service, sure. But it is unwise to make your student loan payments to anyone except for who you owe.

 

 

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No legit company will ever recommend you stop making your loan payments. A company working in your best interest will advise you to make all of your payments on the correct repayment plan so that you’re sure to qualify for any applicable loan forgiveness programs.

 

 

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No one should ever ask for your Federal Student Aid ID. Your FSA ID allows you to log onto the government website where borrowers manage their federal student loans.

 

 

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Fraudsters do a good job of making their websites, seals, and paperwork look like official government branding. Just because something looks official does not mean it is official, so do your research.

 

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If you encounter any student loan scams, you can have a few different options for reporting them. You can report scams to the Department of Education through the Federal Student Aid website.

 

You can also report the business conducting the student loan scam to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Anyone who has been contacted by what they believe to be a scam can also report it to the FTC.

 

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Not everyone qualifies for loan forgiveness. Others may not actually find that it makes the most sense for their own personal financial situation. (This may be especially true for loan forgiveness programs that require you to pay taxes on the forgiven balance, such as income-driven repayment.)

 

 

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Student loan scams rely on the borrower’s lack of understanding on how their loans, and loan forgiveness program works. Pay attention to texts, emails, or phone calls that over-promise on their ability to lower your monthly payments or have loans forgiven, as these are generally indicators that there is a scam, or other unfavorable business going on. If you have any doubt, contact your loan servicer directly to avoid falling into a scammer’s trap.

 

No matter what path you take with your student loans, always be sure to do adequate research. It’s hard to scam someone that understands their loans, and their options for repaying them.

 

Learn More:

This article originally appeared on SoFi.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

 

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