Snack Drive for Boys & Girls Clubs of Glacier Country

Freedom Bank is collecting donated non-perishable, packaged treats and snacks for the children of Boys & Girls Clubs of Glacier Country.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Glacier Country Logo

Boys & Girls Clubs serve many school aged children in our community. The organizations works with children after school during the school year and all day during the summer. Snacks are a wonderful way to help fuel children so they can continue to learn.

Sizes do not have to be individual small sizes; large or bulk sizes are accepted!

Some ideal items, but not limited to, are:

  • Dry Cereal
  • Cookies
  • Fruit Cups
  • Pudding Cups
  • Jell-O Cups
  • Pretzels
  • Trail Mix
  • Fruit Snacks
  • Crackers
  • Goldfish Crackers

Please drop off donations to Freedom Bank at 530 9th Street West, Columbia Falls, MT 59912. If you have any questions, contact us at 406-892-1776.

Fight IRS Reporting Mandates

To Freedom Bank Customers and Members of Our Community,

We care about you, your finances, and your privacy, so we want to let you know about a concerning proposal taking shape in Washington. If passed, the proposal would require financial institutions to report the inflows and outflows on personal and business accounts to the IRS.

Specifically, the proposed fiscal 2022 budget would require banks and other financial institutions to report to the IRS on the deposits and withdrawals of all business and personal accounts with a balance of more than $600.

Source: Pages 88-89 of the FY2022 Revenue Proposal: https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/131/General-Explanations-FY2022.pdf

The proposal would:

  • Constitute a broad, unwarranted infringement on the privacy of all bank customers.
  • Be intrusive and indiscriminate.
  • Undermine the goal of reducing the unbanked.
  • Increase taxpayer complexity and confusion.
  • Overwhelm the IRS with personal financial data and increase risk of data breach.

All Americans have a fundamental right to financial privacy. IRS data collection should be tied directly to tax liability and should be no broader than absolutely necessary. The Administration’s proposal would equate to a fishing expedition unsupported by reasonable suspicion of tax evasion. This proposed new expansive reporting approach to tax collection is unprecedented and warrants serious Congressional scrutiny.

Freedom Bank will not stand for this, but we need your help to ensure policymakers hear us loud and clear. If you want to make your voice heard by policymakers or learn more about this proposal, visit banklocally.org/privacy.

You can also use the official contact forms to directly email our Members of Congress. Sample text for a message is included in this document: https://www.freedombankmt.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Contact-Members-of-Congress.docx

Please let us know if you have any questions. We look forward to continuing to serve you and our community.

2021 Heritage Days: The Way We Were

The community celebration began in 1956 to mark the prosperity brought about by industrial expansion, which included the railroad, lumber business, and the Anaconda Aluminum Company.

Freedom Bank is honored to be a part of Columbia Falls’ growth over the past 16 years. Just like many of our customers, Freedom Bank is a small local business. To participate in this community and to be able to support and watch it grow has been inspiring.

Look for Freedom Bank in the parade down Nucleus Avenue on Saturday, July 24th at 12:00 pm. After the parade, roughly at 1:30 pm, Freedom Bank sponsors a Wild Horse Drive down Highway 2 from Columbia Heights to the Blue Moon. We are also a main sponsor of the Open Rodeo at the Blue Moon Arena, a team and prize sponsor for the 3 on 3 basketball tournament, and a sponsor of the Columbia Falls Community Market at the Coop.

Heritage Days is an adventure and celebration for the whole family. Take a look at the complete schedule below or visit the official website here: http://cfallsheritagedays.com/index.html

Wednesday – July 21, 2021

  • 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. – 12th Annual Car Show at Marantette Park.

Thursday – July 22, 2021

  • 5:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m. – Columbia Falls Community Market at the Coop
  • FREE Open Swimming at Pinewood Park Pool.
    • 6:30 p.m. – 7:45 p.m. Adults and kids to 12 years old
    • 8:15 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. Adults and kids 13+ years old

Friday – July 23, 2021

  • 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Wildcat/kat Athletic Endowment
  • 5:30 p.m. – Wildcat/kat Athletic Endowment Auction and BBQ
    Marantette Park in Columbia Falls.

    •  5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. BBQ and Social Hour. $5.00 per plate
    • 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Raffles
    • 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Live Auction
    • 8:30 p.m. – 11:00 p.m. Beer Garden
  • 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. – Lion’s Club Concert at Marantette Park.
  • 7:00 p.m. – Open Rodeo at the Blue Moon Arena northeast corner of Hwy. 2 and 40, just behind the Blue Moon Bar & Grille

Saturday – July 24, 2021

  • 7:00 a.m. – Firemen’s Breakfast at Don Anderson Fire Hall, 624 1st Ave. West.
  • 8:00 a.m. – Boogie-to-the-Bank 5k & 10k Run. North Fork to Discovery Square . Contact Ashley Campbell at 406-751-4758 for more information.
  • 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. – Arts, Crafts, Food Vendors and activities for the kids at Marantette Park.
  • 10:00 a.m. – Class Reunions meet to participate in parade. (See your Class contact person for more info.)
  • 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. – North Valley Senior Center Fund Raiser Luncheon.
    (salads, sandwiches, pies and beverages)
  • 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. enjoy the North Valley High Steppers line dancing demonstration
    For more information call the Center at 406-892-4087. The Center is located at 205 Nucleus Avenue.
  • 12:00 p.m. – Main Parade on Nucleus Avenue (Railroad Street to 7th Street West). Parade participants will stage along Railroad Street at the north end of Nucleus Ave. at 11:00 a.m.
  • 1:30 p.m. – Freedom Bank’s Wild Horse Drive on Hwy. 2 from Columbia Heights to the Blue Moon.
  • 6:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. – CFHS Class of 1981 40th Reunion – at Eagles 4081 Columbia Falls
  • 7:00 p.m. – Open Rodeo at the Blue Moon Arena northeast corner of Hwy. 2 and 40, just behind the Blue Moon Grille

Sunday – July 25, 2021

  • 7:00 a.m. – 20th Annual WAEA Wildcat/kat Athletic Endowment Golf Scramble  – Meadow Lake Golf Course – Columbia Falls, Mont.
    Pre-registration and payment is highly encouraged due to limited teams.

    • Format: 4 person scramble – all skill levels invited
    • Start: 8:00 a.m. Shotgun Start
    • Rules: USGA rules govern play
    • Tees: Men play the WHITE tees, Women play the RED tees
    • Field: Number of teams are limited to 36 with a max. of 4 players per team
    • Handicaps: Callaway System
    • Cost: $100.00 per player for 18 holes of golf, lunch and hole prizes. Register by July 14, 2021 with the Meadow Lake Pro Shop (406)892-2111

Elder Abuse Awareness

Roughly 20 percent of older Americans fall prey to financial exploitation losing on average $120,000, or $3 billion every year, according to a study from the AARP Public Policy Institute (https://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/ppi/2016-02/banksafe-initiative-aarp-ppi.pdf).

Be on the Lookout for Elder Financial Abuse Scams

It’s an all too unfortunate reality that older adults are attractive targets for financial exploitation because they tend to possess more wealth than other potential victims. This is wealth that in many instances has been accumulated over their lifetime through hard work and conscientious saving.

The COVID-19 pandemic made the problem even worse with fraudsters coming out of the woodwork. Many of our vulnerable citizens found themselves the victim of scammers pretending to assist with COVID-19 related services and using medical and other ill-gotten personal information to perpetrate fraud and rob them of their life savings.

With World Elder Abuse Awareness Day happening on June 15, we wanted to provide our nation’s seniors and their family members with tips to guard against financial exploitation.

Medicare/Health Insurance Scams

It is difficult to imagine that someone could prey on those in need of medical assistance, but unfortunately, Medicare fraud is all too common. Criminals are posing as Medicare or medical supply representatives to obtain personal information or provide bogus services and using the information to bill Medicare or assume an identity to perpetrate fraud.

Another COVID-19 related scam centers around a FEMA program to assist with funeral expenses. While this is a legitimate program, and you can reach out to FEMA to apply for these benefits, citizens should be mindful that:

  • FEMA will not contact you until you call or apply for assistance.
  • The government won’t ask you to pay anything to get this benefit.

As a good rule of thumb never share personal or financial information with anyone who contacts you out of the blue.

Top Scams Affecting Senior Citizens - Zoom Phishing Emails, Telemarketing Phone Scams, Internet Fraud, Investment Schemes, Sweepstakes & Lottery Scams

Zoom Phishing Emails and Internet Fraud

At the onset of the pandemic con artists registered thousands of fake Zoom-related internet domains to send phony emails, texts or social media messages to trick consumers into clicking on bogus links related to purported “account suspension” or “meeting” notices. Those that took the bait inadvertently downloaded malware (malicious software) on their computer, exposing their personal information to potential use by fraudsters.

Internet scammers are also known for sending fake text messages alleging trouble with an internet account, credit card, bank account or shopping order. Many even contain realistic looking logos to lure you into clicking on a link and divulging personal information.

To limit your exposure, avoid clicking on links from unsolicited emails or texts. If you suspect a problem with an account contact the bank or service provider directly.

Telemarketing/Phone Scams

Seniors schooled in etiquette may frown upon “hanging up the phone” or simply saying “no” to unsolicited calls, but it also leaves the door open to criminals posing as company representatives. Three notable examples include:

  1. The pigeon drop where con artists pretend to share found money in exchange for a “good faith” payment drawn from the contacted person’s bank account.
  2. The fake accident ploy where con artists create a false narrative that a loved one has been injured in an accident and needs money for medical expenses.
  3. Charity scams where con artists solicit funds on behalf of a charity for which they are not affiliated with or is not legit.

Remember, if it’s too good to be true it probably is. If you want to give, go directly to the source. And if you are worried about a friend or family member, verify the information with them directly.

Scams are always changing. This year’s pandemic fraud will be replaced by a new and creative scheme next year. The Federal Trade Commission has a “scam alert” page with information about the ever-changing ways that scam artists target consumers, at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/scam-alerts.

And as trusted stewards of our customer’s financial data, feel free to reach out to Freedom Bank at 406-892-1776. Our employees are trained on the latest fraud prevention techniques. They can help you spot potential scams and take appropriate measures to protect your account if you suspect you have been a victim of financial fraud.

Micah Hill – April Hometown Hero Award Winner

We are very proud to give Micah Hill the April Hometown Hero Award. Micah was recently selected as the Superintendent of Kalispell Public Schools and has courageously lead the Kalispell community throughout the pandemic. “I’m glad my little voice was heard,” stated Colette Riel when she was notified that her nomination won. With his leadership, the Kalispell schools remained open; hiring more teachers to assist with remote learning demands and developing other transitional plans.

Micha Hill and Don Bennett

Micah Hill receives Award and $500 check to The Flathead Youth Home

Hill demonstrated that it just takes that one person to bring the community together and make the Flathead Valley a beautiful place to live. Just recently he was selected by his peers as Superintendent of the Year for the Northwest Region and is now a finalist for State Superintendent of the Year.

Hill has chosen to donate the $500 award to The Flathead Youth Home. The Flathead Youth Home provides short-term crisis intervention and longer-term group care for youth, aged 10 to 18, in the Flathead Valley. It’s a place where children and teenagers can find security, a sense of belonging, and a place to call home. Other nonprofits that Hill would like to recognize that make the Flathead Valley a community are the Kalispell Education Foundation which provides grant-based investments in programs and resources that encourage collaboration, innovation, and academic excellence, Sparrows Nest of NW MT ensures safe, supportive housing and resources for unaccompanied homeless high school students in the Flathead Valley, Heart Locker acts as a “store” open to students at NO cost where K-12 students can take what they need, and the Flathead Community Health Center where primary medical care for the whole family is provided and no services are denied based on the inability to pay. All of these programs support children, families, and the people of the Flathead Valley; the foundation of our community. You can read more about Micah Hill in an upcoming issue of the Hungry Horse News.

The Hometown Hero award will continue running through January 2022. If you know of someone that is going out of their way, above and beyond expectations, cultivating our community and making a positive impact, please nominate them for the Hometown Hero Award. Each nomination is a true testament of the beauty in our community and demonstrates the impact individuals have on our families, friends, and neighborhoods. If the individual you nominated did not win this month, we encourage you to nominate them again!

Visit www.FreedomBankHometownHero.com to learn more.

 

MAVERICK BENCH – MARCH 2021 HOMETOWN HERO

Don Bennett with Logan and Colleen Bench and the nominator, Megan Luce

We are honored to announce Maverick Bench as our second Hometown Hero. “He brought our community together during his battle of aplastic anemia. He had such a big soul and big heart for those around him. He is the perfect person to be honored as our hometown hero.”  Megan Luce wrote in her early March nomination of Maverick. The astronomical number of votes for Maverick support that statement.

What started as posts on Logan Bench’s personal Facebook page to keep his family informed regarding Maverick’s condition turned into a way to bring the Valley together during a time when everyone was facing a confusing year. “He was a light during COVID and a message to keep fighting,” said Megan. Megan spoke of the togetherness and love that everyone shared supporting Maverick during his fight. “I would read the blogs every morning, share them with my kids and send them to my relatives in Washington, Arkansas, and Louisiana. God has big plans for him.” She expressed the positive influence Maverick has had on her two young children, Devin and Charlie. They still remember where they were standing on the corner of Rose Crossing and LaSalle during the huge parade when they brought Maverick home.

The lasting impression Maverick has had on all of us is a testament of the beauty in the Flathead Valley. It takes just one person to bring out the greater goodness and in Maverick’s case, he truly reached almost everyone in the Valley, and beyond. Maverick’s parents, Logan and Colleen, were very grateful to accept the Hometown Hero Award on Maverick’s behalf, and wanted to thank everyone for their love and support. They especially wanted to recognize Angel Flight West with their free, non-emergency air travel for children and adults with serious medical conditions, The Jadyn Fred Foundation out of Missoula, and the Doug Betters For The Children Inc.

Logan and Colleen are trying to maintain a sense of normalcy with their other children and keeping busy with wrestling seems to help. If you follow them on Facebook, they have a dedicated a page for Maverick called Maverick’s Army. They are exploring the idea of creating a foundation called Maverick’s Army. But in the meantime, they have purchased a wrestling mat that has been traveling Montana appearing at wrestling tournaments in Maverick’s memory. “We even had a request to bring it to Oklahoma.” Logan mentioned they are looking into a trailer to carry the wrestling mat. “That way if anyone wanted to use it they could just hook up to the trailer.” Logan and Colleen have chosen the Doug Betters For The Children Inc. as the nonprofit to receive the $500 award. You can read more about Maverick and his beautiful family in an upcoming issue of The Daily Interlake.

Congratulations!

The Hometown Hero award will continue running through January 2022. If you know of someone that is going out of their way, above and beyond expectations, cultivating our community and making a positive impact, please nominate them for the Hometown Hero Award. Each nomination is a true testament of the beauty in our community and demonstrates the impact individuals have on our families, friends, and neighborhoods. If the individual you nominated did not win this month, we encourage you to nominate them again!

Visit www.FreedomBankHometownHero.com to learn more.

Kelly Hamilton – February 2021 Hometown Hero

The first recipient of the Freedom Bank Hometown Hero Award is Kelly Hamilton.

Freedom Bank President Don Bennett with Kelly Hamilton, the winner of the February 2021 Hometown Hero Award.

Kelly Hamilton works fulltime for Weyerhaeuser and is a ‘twisted tails’ member of the Columbia Falls Lions Club. She graduated from Columbia Falls High School and currently lives in Columbia Falls. Kelly is very active serving the community and Flathead Valley. She is involved in numerous nonprofit programs. Recently she ran the largest Toys for Tots drive this past Christmas. With more kids in need due to COVID, she exceeded the goal for the drive and did it with more volunteers than in the past. “The volunteers came out of the woodwork to help,” she stated. She has been volunteering all of her life and is well known in the Valley for her services over the years. Some of the nonprofit programs she has been involved with are Fire Relief, Gap Fillers, Canyon Kids, the local Food Bank, and the Lions Club. The next time you see her helping our community, tell her thanks for everything she is doing.

Each winner of the Hometown Hero award selects a nonprofit to receive $500 on their behalf. Kelly has selected the Lions Club, specifically their Backpack Program to receive the prize money. If you would like to contribute to the cause, please contact the Lions Club for more information. You can read more about Kelly in the March 10th issue of the Hungry Horse News.

Congratulations Kelly!

The Hometown Hero award will continue running through January 2022. If you know of someone that is going out of their way, above and beyond expectations, cultivating our community and making a positive impact, please nominate them for the Hometown Hero Award. Each nomination is a true testament of the beauty in our community and demonstrates the impact individuals have on our families, friends, and neighborhoods. If the individual you nominated did not win this month, we encourage you to nominate them again!

Click here to learn more about the Hometown Hero project.

COVID-19 Scams

Avoid Coronavirus Scams

Communities are doing a lot to support one-another in these unprecedented times, but unfortunately scammers are taking advantage of fears surrounding the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Some scams purport to be providing relief or cures. Some scammers are preying on the generosity of people and asking you to donate to victims or relief funds.

Please don’t fall victim to these frauds and crimes. Independently verify the identity of any company, charity, or individual that contacts you regarding COVID-19.

If you see these frauds being attempted or if you are victimized by these frauds, please report them to:

Some examples of COVID-19 scams include:

Unemployment Scams

The Montana Department of Labor & Industry (DLI) announced on June 12th, 2020 that the agency has prevented over $220M in fraudulent Unemployment Insurance (UI) payments since April 28. Scammers are utilizing information obtained from various large-scale data breaches (such as Equifax) to file for fraudulent unemployment claims. If you receive a UI identity verification letter and have not filed for benefits or believe you may be a victim of unemployment or identity fraud to report it at http://uid.dli.mt.gov/report-fraud immediately.

In some instances, the FTC says unemployment payments may be sent to the real person instead of the impostor. The criminal may attempt to contact the individual whose information they stole pretending to be a government official and say the funds were sent by mistake.

“If you get benefits you never applied for, report it to your state unemployment agency and ask for instructions,” the FTC said. “Don’t respond to any calls, emails, or text messages telling you to wire money, send cash, or put money on gift cards. Your state agency will never tell you to repay money that way. Anyone who tells you to do those things is a scammer. Every time.”

The Federal Trade Commission’s identity theft website at identitytheft.gov also provides resources and a detailed step-by-step process for reporting and protecting against identity theft.

Grants or Stimulus Payments

If you receive calls, emails, or other communications claiming to be from the Treasury Department and offering COVID-19 related grants or stimulus payments in exchange for personal financial information, or an advance fee, tax, or charge of any kind, including the purchase of gift cards, please do not respond. These are scams.

Phishing Scams

Scammers posing as national and global health authorities, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are sending phishing emails designed to trick recipients into downloading malware or providing personal identifying and financial information.

  • Check the websites and email addresses offering information, products, or services related to COVID-19. Be aware that scammers often employ addresses that differ only slightly from those belonging to the entities they are impersonating. For example, they might use “cdc.com” or “cdc.org” instead of “cdc.gov.”
  • Do not click on links or open email attachments from unknown or unverified sources. Doing so could download a virus onto your computer or device.
  • Make sure the anti-malware and anti-virus software on your computer is operating and up to date.

App Scams

Scammers are creating and manipulating mobile apps designed to track the spread of COVID-19 to insert malware that will compromise users’ devices and personal information. Watch out for any links texted to your Android phone promising an app to track coronavirus.

Treatment Scams

Scammers are offering to sell fake cures, vaccines, and advice on unproven treatments for COVID-19. Check reputable sources like the CDC and WHO for factual information about treatments and prevention measures.

  • Be wary of unsolicited emails offering information, supplies, or treatment for COVID-19 or requesting your personal information for medical purposes. Legitimate health authorities will not contact the general public this way.
  • Ignore offers for a COVID-19 vaccine, cure, or treatment. Remember, if there is a medical breakthrough, you won’t hear about it for the first time through an email, online ad, or unsolicited sales pitch.
  • Check online reviews of any company offering COVID-19 products or supplies. Avoid companies whose customers have complained about not receiving items.

In-Demand Product Scams

Online sellers claim they have in-demand products, like cleaning, household, and health and medical supplies. You place an order, but you never get your shipment. Anyone can set up shop online under almost any name — including scammers.

  • Check out the seller by searching online for the person or company’s name, phone number and email address, plus words like “review,” “complaint” or “scam.” If everything checks out, pay by credit card and keep a record of your transaction.
  • If you’re concerned about the pricing of products in your area, contact your state consumer protection officials. Montana Attorney General Tim Fox can be reached at (406) 444-2026. For a complete list of state Attorneys General, visit naag.org.

Provider Scams

Scammers are contacting people by phone and email demanding payment for treatment of a friend or relative that they claim was hospitalized for Coronavirus.

Charity Scams

Scammers are soliciting donations for false “funds” for individuals, groups, and areas affected by COVID-19.

  • Research any charities or crowdfunding sites soliciting donations in connection with COVID-19 before giving. Remember, an organization may not be legitimate even if it uses words like “CDC” or “government” in its name or has reputable looking seals or logos on its materials. For online resources on donating wisely, visit the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website.
  • Be wary of any business, charity, or individual requesting payments or donations in cash, by wire transfer, gift card, or through the mail. Don’t send money through any of these channels.

Investment Scams

Scammers are offering online promotions on various platforms, including social media, claiming that the products or services of publicly traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure COVID-19, and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase in value as a result. These promotions are often styled as “research reports,” make predictions of a specific “target price,” and relate to microcap stocks, or low-priced stocks issued by the smallest of companies with limited publicly available information.

For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) websites.

Source: https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdpa/covid-19-fraud-page

Source: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2020/03/ftc-coronavirus-scams-part-2

COVID-19 Response

Our team is available to serve you as always. Our lobby is open M-F 9-5 and Saturdays 9-1. The Drive Up is open M-F 8-6 and Saturdays 9-1. Our ATM is available 24/7.

We will continue to closely monitor the situation and evaluate additional measures to support our customers and community as needs arise.

Updates will be posted here and on our Facebook and Instagram pages.

Thank you for being a valued customer.


Specific Contacts

Commercial Loans

Don Bennett, President – 406-892-6622 After Hours 406-270-1143

Max – 406-892-6631

Cameron – 406-892-6626

Real Estate Loans

Trevor – 406-892-6629

New Accounts

Alona – 406-892-6630

Wire Transfers or Disputes

Carie – 406-892-6625

Online and Mobile Banking

Lynette – 406-892-6632

Blayne – 406-892-6634

For all other concerns and questions, please call 406-892-1776.


Drive Up Banking

Monday-Friday 8:00AM – 6:00PM

Saturday 9:00AM – 1:00PM


Phone and Email

406-892-1776

info@FreedomBankMT.com

We encourage you to be vigilant and wary of attempted scams. We will never ask you to share your online banking credentials.


Mobile Banking

  • 24/7 Account Access: Check transaction history, transfer money between accounts, and pay bills for established billers.
  • Deposit Checks Remotely: Contact us if you need your remote check deposit limit increased.

Download the Freedom Bank MT Mobile App. Use your phone’s camera to scan a QR code below.

 

 

 

 

 

Learn more about the mobile application here.


Computer Displaying Online Banking WebsiteOnline Banking

  • 24/7 Account Access: Check transaction history, transfer money between accounts, pay bills, and view statements.
  • Business ACH Capabilities: Businesses can apply for Business Online to pay bills and payroll with ACH or collect money from customers via direct debit.

Five Holiday Scams to Avoid

‘Tis the season… for holiday scams! As the end of the year approaches, criminals are working overtime to take advantage of busy employees.

Here are five threats to watch out for this holiday season:

Infected e-Cards and Memos

Holiday cards can spread cheer—and also malware. Criminals love to send cute Christmas and New Year’s e-cards which entice you to click a link— but once you do, your computer is infected with malware that can steal your online banking credentials, credit card numbers and more.

This year, the party started early, when a rash of Emotet-laced Halloween invitations was reported back in October. Recipients were invited to a “Come and say hello to your neighbors and enjoy some food and drink… Details in the attachment.” If you click on the attachment, a Word document opens, prompting the user to “Enable Content.” Once clicked, the malware is loaded onto the victim’s computer.

Days before Thanksgiving, researchers reported a surge of “Thanksgiving lures,” such as a “holiday memo” that announced office closure dates. Busy staff, making their holiday plans, were undoubtedly tempted to click without thinking, and fell victim to these holiday scams.

To protect your friends, family and colleagues, make sure everyone is familiar with the common “Enable Content” trick shown in the image below, and knows NOT to click the button.

Fake Retail Deals

Do those Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals sound too good to be true? Cybercriminals love to lure consumers into clicking on fake offers. Often, these phishing email perfectly mirror real email blasts sent by Amazon or other big names. This year, fake e-commerce sites are trendy holiday scams, with researchers reporting a 233% increase compared with last November.

To be safe, don’t click the link— instead, type the store’s address directly into the address bar, and then look for holiday offers on their web site. Remember, if an offer seems too good to be true, it’s probably a scam.

Gift Card Scams

Gift cards are popular, both at home and in the office, as rewards for employees and convenient thank-you gifts for vendors and clients. This makes them a popular target for holiday scams. Criminals take advantage of that by tricking people into purchasing gift cards and giving them the codes to redeem them. According to the Wall Street Journal, consumers reportedly lost over $74 million in scams involving gift cards or reloadable cards in January-September of this year (an increase of $53 million compared with 2015).

In a typical scam, a criminal impersonates someone you know such as a close relative, and send emails or text messages asking you to purchase gift cards. The cards are supposedly a “reward” or a surprise — meaning that often, the victim is asked to keep the purchase secret. The victim sends the card details to the scammer, who steals them and cashes out.

To protect you and your family, make sure everyone is aware of common gift card scams, and knows to verify requests via phone before responding.

Point-of-Sale and ATM Skimmers

Look carefully at that ATM or point-of-sale terminal before you insert your credit or debit card. Criminals can place “skimmers” to steal your credit or debit card number as you swipe. They can also overlay a keypad to capture any PIN numbers you enter.

Check card readers and PIN pads carefully for unusual signs such as cracks, loose parts or scratches. If you notice anything suspicious, don’t use that machine. Consider using ApplePay, GooglePay, SamsungPay or similar modern payment technologies for retail purchases, since they offer extra security measures that never reveal your card number to the merchant.

E-Skimming

Modern criminals break into ecommerce sites in order to inject snippets of code into the checkout page and steal customer card numbers. These e-skimming attacks (often referred to as “Magecart” attacks) have reached epidemic proportions, affecting retail giants such as Macy’s and Newegg, and prompting warnings from the FBI, US-CERT and others. Criminals have honed their tactics, often targeting popular third-party ecommerce software and plugins, in order to infect thousands of websites at once.

Merchants can defend against this by carefully vetting third-party code that is included in their site. Make sure your software is up-to-date, and stay apprised of any known vulnerabilities in your ecommerce platform. Have your web site tested regularly so that you are alerted to issues early on, before hackers break into your system.

For consumers, e-skimming attacks are a tricky problem, because there is no easy way to detect the malware in web sites that you visit. Carefully consider whether the online shop you use is reputable, and consider using virtual credit card numbers to reduce your risk if a site is infected. If you suspect an ecommerce site is infected, or notice fraud related to an ecommerce sale, report any incidents to www.ic3.gov.

Cybercriminals work overtime during the holidays! Share this list to keep your friends and colleagues aware of holiday scams, so everyone stays safe this season.