Beware of Digital Kidnapping

Most parents warn their kids against taking candy or accepting a ride from a stranger, but there’s a digital equivalent to conventional kidnapping that is unknown to many people. Digital kidnapping happens when a crook takes control of a target’s social media profiles and holds them until a ransom is paid. It can also involve “kidnapping” photos that are posted on social media pages. Here’s what you need to know about digital kidnapping and how to protect yourself from falling victim. 

How the scams play out

In a digital kidnapping scam, a hacker or ring of scammers will take control of one or more of a target’s social media profiles. The target will be effectively locked out of their own social media accounts and will be unable to access or update them. Once the scammer has control of the profile, they’ll contact the target, demanding a hefty ransom in return for access to the account. They may even threaten to post damaging or humiliating content on the social media profile unless the ransom is paid.

In another version of this scam, hackers will “kidnap” a photo of a child or baby off an unsecured social media account. They will post these photos in their own accounts, using the picture-perfect moments to create a fantasy world of their own. In a creepy twist of reality, they’ll pretend these are snapshots of their own family. They may use this fake world to help them create an imaginary escape, or to draw traffic to their own public accounts. Sometimes, they’ll utilize these photos to help build a bogus story, such as a baby being put up for adoption, or a charitable fund to benefit a child whose parents are struggling financially. Unfortunately for the actual parents, it can be months or years before they find out that their child’s picture is splashed across a public account with thousands of followers. 

If you’ve been targeted

If you believe you’ve been targeted by a digital kidnapping scam, there are steps you can take to mitigate the damage. First, alert the company that owns the social media platform to let them know your account has been compromised. They’ll likely have specific instructions for you to follow to ensure your account remains safe. They may even advise you to close the compromised account and open a new one. Next, tip off the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and local law enforcement agencies which can help you determine whether it makes sense to pay the requested ransom. Finally, clean up your accounts and make sure there is no identifying or potentially dangerous information being posted on a public forum.

Protect yourself

The best way to protect yourself from digital kidnapping is by keeping your accounts private and secure. Always choose the strongest security settings on your devices and opt for private social media accounts across every platform. This will limit your audience to by-invitation-only viewers while helping to keep hackers and creeps away. 

It’s also a good idea to be mindful of what you post, and how often you post it. Even when using the strongest security settings, sharing a picture online essentially means sharing it with the public. You never know who may be trolling your accounts or looking for pictures to “adopt” as their own. Think three times before posting a picture of your kids. Extra caution is advised for those with super-cute kids.

Finally, be sure to follow basic online safety rules to avoid giving a scammer access to your accounts. Use strong, unique passwords for each of your online accounts and change up your passwords every six months or so. Avoid using public WiFi unless absolutely necessary. Accept every security and software update offered for your device to keep them operating at optimal security. Finally, avoid sharing sensitive information with an unverified contact and never download an attachment or click on a link within an email from an unknown sender. 

Stay alert and stay safe!

Your Turn: Do you have a digital kidnapping experience to share? Tell us about it in the comments.

8 Ways to Spot a Survey Scam

Survey scams are almost as old as the internet. They’re so prevalent, you can hardly spend an hour online without running into an ad for a “super quick” survey promising a reward for just a few minutes of your time. 

What actually happens, though, is that the scammer walks away with a free survey, or worse, your information and/or your money. The alert consumer can spot a survey scam easily, but fraudsters are unfortunately becoming more sophisticated at luring innocent victims into their schemes. 

Don’t get caught! Here are eight ways to spot a survey scam:

  1. You’re asked to pay to participate in a survey

Authentic survey companies need you – you don’t need them. There’s absolutely no reason to pay to take a survey of any kind. If you’re targeted by an ad asking you to take a survey and to pay for the privilege of doing so, don’t respond. 

  1. You’re asked to share sensitive information before you can take the survey

They’d really appreciate it if you could take this quick survey for them. They just need some information from you first, like your Social Security number, date of birth and maybe even your checking account number. If a survey company asks for anything more than basic information from you, sign out as quickly as you can. 

  1. They advertise on Craigslist and similar sites asking for your email address

“Survey companies” that advertise on sites like Craigslist asking you to share your email address are usually fronts for scam rings. They use the bogus surveys as bait so you will share your email address. Once they have this information, they’ll use it to spam you with scam emails, phishing schemes, malware or worse. Alternatively, they’ll sell your email address to another scam ring to be used for similar purposes. 

  1. They offer too much money

If a survey is offering you $100 for a 20-question survey that shouldn’t take you more than five minutes to complete, you can be sure you’re looking at a scam. No legitimate survey company is that desperate. The pay for authentic survey-taking is generally on a much more modest scale. 

  1. You’re directed to download attachments 

Any time an unknown contact asks you to download attachments to your device, be super-suspicious. More often than not, these are scams and the attachments are loaded with malware. Don’t respond to the offer, and if it was made via email, be sure to report the email address as spam. 

  1. They advertise aggressively

If the same solicitation for survey participation keeps popping up across your screen, you may be looking at a scam. Scammers tend to flood their targets with ads in the hopes that one of them will actually work. Similarly, if the survey offer is full of unbelievable testimonials of past

participants, you’re likely looking at a scam. Legitimate survey companies don’t need to try so desperately hard to get people to take their surveys. 

  1. They give you an hour to pre-qualify for the survey

Often, a survey company will want you to answer a few pre-qualifying questions to see if you fit their desired demographic. Scammers exploit the prequalification by having the target answer dozens of questions and then informing them they’ve run out of time and cannot participate in the actual survey. This is false, of course, and the questions the scammer just answered actually were the survey questions, only now they won’t be getting paid for it. Check to see if a survey has a time limit on the prequalification before you start answering questions. 

  1. They require an outrageous minimum before payment

Most legitimate survey companies require the survey taker to complete a minimum number of surveys before the first payment. However, scammers require their targets to take an unrealistic number of surveys before they receive their first paycheck. Often, the victim will just quit before they qualify for a payment and the scammers now have these completed surveys without paying anything for them. 

Survey-taking can be a great way to earn some pocket money, but survey scams are rampant. Follow these tips to stay safe!

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a survey scam? Share your experience in the comments. 

The Power of One More: The Ultimate Guide to Happiness and Success

Title: The Power of One More: The Ultimate Guide to Happiness and Success 

Author: Ed Mylett

Hardcover: 272 pages

Publisher: Wiley

Publishing date: June 1, 2022

Who is this book for? 

  • Anyone looking for a way to live a happier life, enjoy better relationships and grow their wealth. 

What’s inside this book?

  • A culmination of revolutionary ideas Ed has built over the course of 30+ years as a successful entrepreneur, performance coach, bestselling author, podcaster and inspirational speaker. 
  • An actionable roadmap for achieving your personal and professional goals using tools you already have.
  • A meaningful discussion intersecting faith, energy and quantum science

4 lessons you’ll learn from this book:  

  1. The dynamics of team chemistry and how to utilize them to become a One More Multiplier.
  2. All about your Reticular Activating System and how to live in your Matrix.
  3. Why you should become an Impossibility Thinker and a Possibility Achiever.
  4. The power of developing one more positive habit, fighting one more battle, creating one more identity and building one more relationship.

4 questions this book will answer for you:  

  1. Can I really achieve my goals and dreams without any significant changes to my life circumstances?
  2. How can I remove the mental roadblocks that have been holding me back from success? 
  3. How do I tap into the superpowers that exist inside me?
  4. What steps do I need to take to take my life from ordinary to extraordinary?

What people are saying about this book: 

“The strategies in The Power of One More are universal. You can incorporate them into your life whether you’re a CEO, a world-class athlete, active in your community, or if you want to build better relationships with your family and friends.”

The Power of One More is a must-read for anyone seeking a happier and more successful life.

This groundbreaking book is the first of its kind, revealing how you can combine thoughts and actions to unlock dynamic and impactful changes.

“The premise of The Power of One More is simple: you are closer to living your best life than you may think.”

Your Turn: What did you think of The Power of One More? Share your opinion in the comments. 

Don’t Get Caught in a Vacation Rental Scam

With prices rising on everything, including hotel stays, record numbers of vacationers are choosing to rent private homes or apartments on sites like Airbnb and Vacation Rentals by Owner (VRBO). Unfortunately, though, vacation rental scams are on the rise as well. Here’s all you need to know about these scams and how to avoid them.

How these scams play out

There are several variations of vacation rental scams. 

In one version, the vacation rental advertised on Airbnb, or on a similar site, does not exist or is in very poor condition. The scammer uses online images or doctored photos to create the bogus listing, and rounds out the ruse setup by creating several phony reviews. If a target falls for the scam and rents the “vacation rental,” they’ll be disappointed to arrive at the posted address on the listing and find that the rental does not exist or is quite run down. 

In another version, an individual rents a listing and receives a message from the renter just before their arrival about a last-minute plumbing emergency at the rental site. They’ll be directed to go to another rental instead. This substitute rental will be in far worse condition than the one the vacationer has actually rented. 

In yet another variation, a vacationer unknowingly books a rental on an Airbnb look-alike site. Scammers lure their targets toward these sites by utilizing “URL squatting,” or creating a site that has a similar URL as a well-known site, which in this case, is Airbnb. The fake website enables scammers to capture the payment information of their victims and use it to empty their accounts, or worse. 

In a more recent version of the vacation rental scam, criminals are exploiting people’s kindness and the war in Ukraine to con victims out of their money. Here’s how it works: Generous donors are booking vacation rentals in Ukraine without intending to actually use them as a means to get money to Ukrainians. Airbnb has been supporting this initiative by waiving all host fees for rentals in Ukraine. Unfortunately, though, scammers have been creating fake listings in Ukraine and simply using the money to line their pockets. 

Red flags

Avoid a vacation rental scam by looking out for these warning signs: 

  • The listing is relatively new, yet seems to have multiple reviews from alleged past guests. This is especially true if the listing is in Ukraine.
  • The listing is riddled with typos and spelling mistakes. 
  • The images of the listing look too professional and perfect. 
  • The pictures and description of the rental don’t match up to its price.
  • The URL of the listing site is not secure.
  • The owner asks you to finalize the reservation on a platform that is not the hosting platform.
  • The owner insists on being paid via prepaid gift card or wire transfer. 
  • The owner demands you share more information than they should need for you to reserve a rental. 

Protect yourself

Take these steps to protect yourself from a vacation rental scam:

  1. Check, double-check and triple-check the URL before booking a listing. Look for signs of a secure site, like the lock icon and the “s” after the “http”, and make sure you are still on the authentic host site, such as Airbnb.com, and that you haven’t been lured into a bogus look-alike site. 
  2. Verify that the street address of a rental does indeed exist. You can also Google the address to see if there are any images associated with the address outside the vacation rental site. 
  3. Do a reverse image search to confirm if the photos are doctored up or copied stock images.
  4. Never share sensitive information online with an unverified contact. 
  5. Use a credit card for all online purchases. 
  6. Do an online search of the owner and look for anything suspicious. 

Don’t let your dream vacation turn into a nightmare. Follow the tips outlined here and stay safe! 

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a vacation rental scam? Tell us about it in the comments. 

What to Buy and What to Skip in July

The days are still long and filled with sunshine. And though retailers would have you think otherwise, school is still a long way off. If you’re looking to save on some purchases this month, you can find lots of bargains around Independence Day weekend and beyond. Here’s what to buy and what to skip in July. 

Buy: Patriotic items

Pledge allegiance along with your favorite retailers by purchasing almost anything under the sun in red, white and blue. You can pick up bargain-priced clothing, home goods, toys, party goods and so much more in the days and weeks after Independence Day. Of course, you’ll also find discounted fireworks and July 4th-themed decor, which you can store for next year’s Independence Day festivities. 

Skip: Sunglasses

If you need a new pair of shades, you’re best off waiting a bit before springing for a new pair. Sunglasses are still retailing at full price this month, and they won’t start seeing discounts until September. For even steeper savings, pick up a new pair of shades in October. 

Buy: School and office supplies

The start of the school year may be close to two months off, but retailers are already deep into back-to-school season by the time the calendar hits July. Check out big-box stores, like Walmart, Target and Staples, for specials on supplies, like pens and pencils, paper, crayons, scissors and more. If you keep an eye out for sales through the rest of the summer, you can enjoy significant savings on all of your school and office supplies this year. 

Skip: Grills and patio furniture

School might be on the retail calendar, but that doesn’t mean summer is already gone. Grills, patio furniture and other outdoor gear will still be retailing at full price through July. If you can wait a bit, until mid or late August, you’ll save a bundle on all you need to upgrade your outdoor living.

Buy: Summer apparel 

Fashion is always one step ahead of the rest of the world, and summertime is no exception. July means fashion brands and apparel stores are already clearing out their summer goods to make way for the incoming autumn line. Look out for discounts on tank tops, white sneakers, shorts and other summer wear you can still enjoy this season or save for next year’s hot-weather season.

Skip: Lawn mowers

Your mower may be old and creaky, but this isn’t the best time to spring for a replacement. Lawn mowers are still in high demand in July, so they are still retailing at full price. As always, patience can be the key to significant savings: The longer you wait into the season, the better price you can find on a lawn mower and other gardening tools and supplies. 

Buy: Amazon devices

Amazon has announced it will be hosting its Prime Day sales event in July this year. Look out for the exact dates to pick up some fantastic savings on all Amazon devices, including Echo speakers, Echo Show smart displays, Fire tablets, Kindle eBook readers and more. 

Skip: Sandals and flip-flops

Put warm-weather footwear on the skip list this month. Sandals and flip-flops won’t be discounted until August, when the end of the summer is in sight and retailers need to move merchandise to make room for the next season’s inventory. 

Buy: A/C Units

A/C units will begin to drop toward the end of the month as the season passes its midpoint. If your A/C needs to be replaced, you can find a new unit at a discounted price in July. 

July can bring great deals on all kinds of products for the savvy shopper. Use the tips here to know what to buy and what to skip this July. 

Your Turn: Have you picked up any great bargains in July? Tell us about them in the comments. 

Beware Malware Scams

Oh no! Your computer’s been hacked, and it now has an awful virus. But there’s good news; a helpful caller reached out to you to offer their expert help. The caller may even be a representative of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), or another reputable company, and they’re happy to help restore your device to safety. Just do as they say, and all will be right again. 

Unfortunately, it won’t: If you do follow the caller’s instructions, you’ll be lured into a scam. 

Malware scams are particularly malicious, as they exploit the prevalence of scams and hackers to trick innocent victims into losing their information and money. Here’s what you need to know about malware scams and how to avoid them.

How these scams play out

Malware scams, also known as tech support scams, begin as a seemingly innocent phone call. As described, a scammer reaches out to an individual and informs them that their computer or another device has been hacked. The caller will claim that the alleged hacker has gained access to the victim’s computer and can now do all kinds of damage. The caller, posing as a tech support representative, can help remove any viruses or malware that may have been installed in the device. The alleged tech support rep gives clear instructions, often involving giving the caller access to their device. Unfortunately, though, if the victim follows these directions, they’ll actually be installing malware on their computer. 

Red flags

Avoid malware scams by looking out for these warning signs: 

  • An alleged rep of a tech support company, or the FTC, has called you without you reaching out to them first. 
  • The “tech support rep” asks you to provide them with remote access to your device so they can allegedly remove any malware that has been installed.
  • The caller claims that serious damage has already been done to your computer even though everything looks untouched from your observations.
  • The caller urges you to act immediately or risk causing further damage to your device. 
  • The caller asks you to enter your credit card information or checking account details to pay them for their service. Alternatively, they’ll ask to be paid via prepaid gift card. 

If you’ve been targeted

If you believe you’ve been targeted by a malware scam, take these steps to protect your money, and your device, from harm.

First, do not engage with the caller. Hang up as soon possible and block the number. Next, if you’ve started entering information into your computer as per the caller’s instructions, close your device immediately. If you believe you have already given the scammer access to your device, you may want to consult a genuine tech support expert to remove any malware that may have been installed. In addition, consider canceling any credit cards you may have shared with the scammer or which were stored on browsers and apps on the device. Also consider placing a credit freeze on your name to prevent any loans or new lines of credit the scammer may take out in your name. Finally, report the scam to the FTC.

Signs your device has been infected by malware

A computer may be infected with malware and still operate almost normally. Here’s how to tell if your computer’s been infected:

  • It’s slowed down considerably.
  • You’re being blasted with endless pop-up ads. Most of these are also scams. 
  • Your system abruptly crashes. 
  • You’re suddenly low on disk space.
  • There’s an unexplained increase in internet activity. 

If you notice any of these signs on your computer, it’s best to bring it to a tech support expert who can scan it for malware. If malware is found, follow the steps outlined above to protect your money and your information from further harm. 

Don’t get caught in a malware scam! Stay alert and stay safe. 

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a malware scam? Tell us about it in the comments. 

Don’t Get Caught in a Shopping Scam!

Shopping in 2022 is worlds away from what it was at the turn of the century, or even just a few years ago. According to retail research firm, Digital Commerce 360, ecommerce sales surpassed $870 billion in 2021, a 50% jump over 2019. Online shopping is quick, easy and convenient. 

Unfortunately, though, when a lot of shopping moved online, it also ushered in a wave of scams that are often successful. Some of these scams can be difficult for the untrained eye to spot, and many offer no way for the victim to reclaim their lost funds. Here’s what you need to know to recognize an online shopping scam and avoid being the next victim. 

How these scams play out

There are several variations to the online shopping scam. 

In one version, a shopper will scour the internet for a specific item in their desired price range. They’ll find the item retailing on a site at an attractive price and then proceed to make the purchase. They’ll share payment information, input their delivery address and complete the transaction. Unfortunately, though, the item never arrives on their doorstep. Alternatively, a cheap knockoff of the product will arrive instead of the item they’ve purchased. When the buyer tries to demand a refund, they are unable to reach the seller. 

In another variation, a shopper finds an item online and tries to make a purchase. They’ll be asked to input sensitive information, such as a credit card or checking account number. At this point, the shopper will be unable to complete the transaction and will continuously run into errors on the site. However, the scammers now have their information and can proceed to empty the victim’s accounts, or worse.

In a third version of the online shopping scam, a seller clicks on an ad, or on a site that came up in a Google search for one of their favorite stores. They’ll proceed to make an order, not knowing they’ve actually clicked into a bogus look-a-like site run by scammers. The rest of the scam will follow one of the scenarios described above. 

Red flags

Watch for these warning signs that you may have stumbled upon a shopping scam:

  • Prices are too good to be true. If you find an online offer for a new iPhone retailing at just $450, you’re likely looking at a scam. 
  • The offer urges you to act now. If an offer warns that the bargain prices it’s offering won’t last until sundown, it’s likely a scam. 
  • The seller demands specific means of payment. If an e-tailer insists that you pay via prepaid gift card or wire transfer, opt out. 
  • The website is full of typos and grammar errors. If the site is badly in need of editing, it may be run by scammers. 

Stay safe

Follow these tips to keep yourself safe from online shopping scams:

  • Only shop on safe, secure sites. Check the URL for the lock icon and for the “s” after the “http”.
  • Check the URL for proper spelling of reputable sites. Make sure the URL of the site you’re on matches the authentic URL for that retailer and that you haven’t landed on a spoof site. You may want to save the genuine URLs on your computer for future use. 
  • Avoid clicking on high-pressure pop-ups and banner ads. These are often scams.
  • Pay with a credit card when shopping online. A credit card offers the most protection for your purchases. 
  • Never share personal information with an unverified contact. Don’t input your credit card number or account details unless you’re absolutely sure you’re dealing with a reputable website. 

If you’re targeted

If you’ve fallen victim to an online shopping scam, there are steps you can take to mitigate the damage. 

If you’ve paid via credit card, call the company to dispute the charge. At this point, you may want to consider closing the card and placing a credit alert and/or a credit freeze on your name. Next, alert the FTC about the scam. If the alleged retailer is on the BBB website, you can let them know, too. Finally, let your friends know about the scam so they know to be aware.

Stay safe!

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a shopping scam? Tell us about it in the comments. 

Should I Buy Out My Lease?

Q: My lease agreement is nearing its end, and I’m getting many offers to buy out my lease due to the current state of the economy. Should I ignore the hype, or is it really a good idea to buy out my lease?

A: With cars in hot demand, and selling at all-time high prices, many lease customers are looking at trade-in values for their vehicles with the intention of buying out their lease. While this can be a smart choice for many consumers, it’s important to consider all relevant factors before making a decision. Here’s what you need to know about buying out your lease.

What is a lease buyout?

Many drivers are confused by the offers they’re getting and the promotions they’ve seen for buying out leases. How is it possible to buy a lease when a leased vehicle, by definition, is essentially a rented car?

First, buying out a lease involves paying the car’s “buyout price” as specified in the lease contract, which makes you the car’s new owner. Second, it’s important to establish that buying out a lease generally makes the most sense when you are nearing the end of your lease term.   Finally, this may necessitate taking out an auto loan to afford the buyout price, just like you might do when purchasing a new or used car at a dealership.  

How can I determine my car’s buyout price?

To estimate how much you’d need to pay to buy your leased car, look for the term “residual value” in your lease contract. This tells you what your leased vehicle is expected to be worth at the end of the term, which may be months or years away. To reach your vehicle’s buyout price, add the residual value to any remaining payments. For example, if your car’s residual value is $25,000 and you owe another 10 payments of $500, the car’s buyout price is $30,000. Of course, the more time left on your lease, the higher price you can expect to pay to buyout.

Will I need to pay any fees in addition to the buyout price?

Depending on your home state, your vehicle’s buyout price may be subject to an auto sales tax. Your lender may also charge additional fees, such as a ‘purchase option fee’. It’s important to know about any additional fees you may need to pay in addition to the buyout price and to 

estimate the total you’ll be paying before deciding to purchase a leased car.

The good news is that you won’t be accountable for the typical lease-end fees, which can include the costs of reconditioning the vehicle for resale, fixing any damage the car may have incurred during your term, and an over-mileage penalty for every mile you may have driven over the official limit.  

What are the advantages of buying out a lease?

Many drivers are opting to buy their leased vehicles now due to the current state of the auto industry. Supply is low and both new and used cars are in high demand. A driver nearing the end of their lease agreement may find it challenging to purchase or lease another car. Buying a car you already lease will give you first dibs at a hot commodity.  

Some drivers are choosing to capitalize on the high demand for used cars by buying out their leases and then flipping the car to a dealership or selling it privately to a new owner. They assume they will earn enough from the sale to help offset the price of a new car. While this may be true, it’s important to remember that it may be difficult to find a new car in a desired model and at an affordable price.

Before taking out a loan to buy out a lease, find out what your car is actually worth. Due to the state of the market, it’s likely worth more than you’ll pay. However, if it’s worth less than the buyout price, you’ll be upside-down on your loan, which is never a good idea. In addition, you may find it difficult to qualify for a loan in an amount that is higher than the value of the asset.  

How do I buy out my lease?

If you decide to go ahead and buy out your lease, you’ll first need to run the numbers as described above to be sure it’s a financially responsible decision. When you have the total buyout price, your next step is to work on financing. You can choose to take out an auto loan or a personal loan to help cover the costs. 

Next, you’ll contact the company behind your lease and complete the purchase. The sale process will be similar to the sale of any car. Finally, be sure to notify your insurance company about the change in ownership of your vehicle. Leases generally require plans with low deductibles and high premiums, so you may want to choose a new plan with higher deductibles and lower monthly premiums.

If you’re looking to finance an auto loan for a lease buyout car, look no further than Advantage One Credit Union! Our auto loans offer low interest rates [see for current rates], easy payback terms and a quick approval process. Call, click or stop by to get started or discuss available options!

Your Turn: Have you bought your leased car? Tell us about your experience in the comments. 

Don’t Get Caught in a Grandparent Scam

Scammers will capitalize on anything to pull off another ruse, even the special bond between a grandparent and grandchild. Grandparent scams are not new, but they have gotten a lot more sophisticated in recent years, so they can be difficult to spot. Here’s what you need to know about grandparent scams and how to avoid them. 

How the scams play out

There are several variations of the grandparent scam. In each one, the caller will claim to be a grandchild of the target. The scammer will often spoof the grandchild’s number so it shows up on the grandparent’s phone. 

  • The legal trouble scam. In this ruse, a scammer who claims to be the grandchild of the target will call and claim to have been arrested. The “grandchild” will ask their grandparent to send money to post bail. They may also ask for funds to pay for legal representation. They’ll pass the phone to an alleged representative to accept the funds via wire transfer or gift cards. Of course, this is just another scammer who is in on the crime.
  • The medical trouble scam. This version of the grandparent scam involves a “grandchild” calling up Grandma or Grandpa and claiming to be seriously injured. They’ll ask for money to help pay the medical bills. 
  • The international trouble scam. Most common during times when teens and/or young adults are likely to be traveling, such as during spring break or summer vacation, in this scam, a “grandchild” will call and claim they’re in deep trouble while in a foreign country. Of course, they’ll ask for a large sum of money via wire transfer or prepaid debit card to help them get out safely. 

If you’re targeted

If you believe you’ve been targeted by any of these grandparent scams or a similar ruse, follow these steps to keep yourself safe:

  1. Don’t take immediate action. The grandparent scam, like most scams, relies on creating a false sense of urgency so the target has very little time to stop and think about what’s taking place. Beat them at their game by taking a step back and thinking rationally about the call you’re receiving.
  2. Ask a personal question. Your grandchild’s name is on the Caller ID and the caller sounds just like them – but are they really on the phone? Ask the caller to answer a personal question only your grandchild would know, such as a family memory, an important date or a private joke you share with your grandchild.
  3. Check your grandchild’s whereabouts. If you’re still unsure if your grandchild is really calling you, use another phone, or hang up on the call, and call your grandchild on your own. Chances are, your grandchild is perfectly safe and fine.
  4. Hang up and report the crime. Once you’ve verified that you’ve been targeted by a scammer, hang up and report the scam to the police. Share as much information as you can. It’s also a good idea to alert the FTC about the scam. If you’ve lost money through the scam, the FTC can help you determine your best next steps.

Safety rules to know

It’s a good idea to follow these rules for protection from grandparent scams and other ruses:

  • Never share personal information online or on the phone with an unverified contact. 
  • If you’re asked to pay for something via money transfer or prepaid gift card, you’re likely dealing with a scammer. 
  • Put your number on the no call list to limit the number of scammers who target your phone. 
  • Keep your social media privacy settings at their strongest and limit what you share on public forums. 

Grandparent scams are especially nefarious as they exploit the special bond between grandparents and their grandchildren. Use the tips outlined here to stay safe. 

Your Turn: Have you experienced being targeted by a grandparent scam or something similar? Tell us about it in the comments. 

How to Celebrate Memorial Day on a Budget

Celebrating Memorial Day can cost a pretty penny, but there’s no need to spend lavishly to have an epic holiday weekend. Here’s how to celebrate Memorial Day on a budget.

1. Hit the beach

Get out to the shore at the first opportunity! The beach can provide hours of relaxation and fun for the entire family at little or no cost, depending on your location. Stock up on some inexpensive patriotic-patterned towels to make the day feel a little more festive. 

2. Attend a local event

There’s no need to travel far for a fun Memorial Day outing. Check out local online forums and newspapers to see what’s happening in your town. You’ll likely find a carnival, parade, concert and/or street fair that’ll give you some Memorial Day fun at no cost. As a bonus, local activities that do charge an entrance fee will often donate all proceeds to charity, so you’ll be paying it forward all day long.

3. Host a potluck

If you’ll be hosting this Memorial Day, make it a potluck party. Ask each guest to bring one dish for a complete dinner that won’t cost anyone a lot of money. As a bonus, the menu is a lot more fun when it’s varied and prepared by lots of different cooks.

4. Go easy on the decor

No need to blow a ton of money on making your Memorial Day celebration look festive. Spruce up the place with some red, white and blue balloons from the dollar store, find some patriotic banners like these and deck the tables with inexpensive and on-theme tablecloths, too.

5. Make a signature drink

Instead of setting up a full bar, make one signature drink for the night. Festive and fitting for the celebration, this comes out a lot cheaper than springing for a full-blown bar. You can find some great ideas for your signature Memorial Day drink here.

6. Look for coupons

Don’t go anywhere without first checking if you must pay full price. You can pick up some great discounts on restaurant meals, entertainment venues and more at web sites like Groupon.com. If you are a member of AARP or AAA, check to see if you can enjoy some additional exclusive discounts as well.

7. Host a DIY sports event

For a fun and frugal alternative to the traditional Memorial Day BBQ, invite family and friends over to your place, or meet up at a park, for a day of sports and games. You can play flag football, soccer, have a tug-of-war competition or even drum up a full game of baseball. You can set up some light drinks and snacks, or ask your guests to bring their own for a truly cost-free day.

8. Visit historical sites

What better way to spend Memorial Day than checking out historical attractions? Lots of historical sites, like the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania, host free events in honor of the three-day holiday. This event, along with other similar events across the U.S., are a great way to honor the courageous men and women who have served and lost their lives for our country.

9. Rent a boat

Enjoy a day out on the water at little cost by renting a boat from a nearby boat rental service or a private owner. Small boats, like kayaks and canoes, can cost as little as $30 for a few hours of use. Speed boats and pontoons will be pricier, but can also hold more people to share the cost. Bring along some snacks and drinks and good music for a fantastic day of water fun.

10. Participate in a race

Joining a race can be an enjoyable and healthy way to spend your Memorial Day. Participating in a race can cost you as little as $50. As a bonus, lots of Memorial Day races donate all proceeds to organizations that help soldiers pay for expenses that are not covered under military benefits. You’ll be supporting our servicepeople while stretching those muscles!

Memorial Day is always great fun, but it doesn’t need to cost a great deal of money. Use these tips to enjoy a memorable holiday weekend on a budget.

Your Turn: What are your low-cost plans for Memorial Day? Share them with us in the comments.