CU Members Urged to be Cautious About Holiday Spending, Safety (Misc News: November 28, 2011)
Despite a strong start to the holiday shopping season, many consumers say they will continue to keep the purse strings tight. That’s the finding of the 12th annual holiday spending survey by CUNA and the Consumer Federation of America, which shows shoppers continue to feel the sting of the economic crisis.
41 percent of those surveyed plan to spend less this holiday season, and only 8 percent plan to spend more than last year. Thirty-seven percent of consumers surveyed say their financial condition is worse this year than last. That’s up from 30 percent who responded the same way in 2010. What’s more, the number of consumers who feel their financial condition has improved over the past year is on the decline: only 19 percent, as compared to 23 percent in 2010.
The survey revealed a direct link between financial condition and spending. Of those who said they planned to spend more, 33 percent indicated their financial condition was better than a year ago, while only 19 percent said it was worse. Of those who said they planned to spend less, only 15 percent indicated their financial condition was better while 55 percent said it was worse.
According to the National Retail Federation, a record 226 million shoppers visited stores and websites during the four-day holiday weekend that started Thanksgiving Day, up from 212 million last year. Chicago-based research firm ShopperTrak reports that consumers spent $11.4 billion on Black Friday, an increase of 6.6 percent over last year, with equally strong internet sales expected on Cyber Monday.
Meanwhile experts say the holiday shopping season is the peak time for online scams and fraud, and urge credit unions to help members avoid becoming victims. Many financial-related phishing e-mails are designed to appear oriented as "verification of account information" emails that look like official communications from financial institutions. In the emails, receivers are solicited to "click a link" where they will be prompted to verify their account information, such as name and account number.
CUNA suggests credit unions advise members to take preventative measures to protect themselves:
- Educate employees so they can warn members;
- Provide advice in newsletters and on websites;
- Warn members not to follow unsolicited Web links in e-mail messages or on social media platforms;
- Caution against opening email attachments;
- Advise members to maintain up-to-date antivirus software; and
- Explain that they should verify charity authenticity through a trusted contact number.