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Put the Hold It on Holiday Scams | Federal Bureau of Investigation

As many of us will be shopping online this holiday season for the convenience of avoiding the crowds and finding that deal; be aware that shopping online also provides a unique opportunity for would-be scammers.

During the holiday season, scammers become more creative and bold while preying on the unsuspecting consumer.

To mitigate your chances of being victimized by an online scam FBI Richmond encourages consumers to treat online shopping as you would walking into a physical location – be aware, be alert and safeguard your personal information and finances.

Be proactive:

  • Do not click on emails/texts from unknown senders.
  • Independently verify the legitimacy of websites before providing personal and financial information.
  • Conduct a business inquiry on the Better Business Bureau’s website (www.bbb.org) of the online retailer.
  • Steer clear of unfamiliar sites or ads that offer items at unrealistic discounted prices—if a deal from an unknown seller seems too good to be true, it more than likely is.
  • Be wary of online retailers who use a free e-mail service instead of a company e-mail address.
  • Beware of purchases or services that require payment with gift cards, cryptocurrency or wire transfers.
  • Secure all financial accounts with strong passwords or passphrases.
  • Thoroughly check credit card statements; and if possible, consider setting up credit card transaction auto alerts.
  • Never make purchases using public Wi-Fi.
  • Always get a tracking number for items purchased online, and track orders through your original confirmation e-mail.
  • Purchase gift cards directly from a trusted merchant.
  • Ensure the anti-virus/malware software is up to date on your computer and block pop-up windows.

The two most prevalent holiday shopping scams are non-delivery and non-payment crimes. In a non-delivery scam, a buyer pays for goods or services they find online, but those items are never received. Conversely, a non-payment scam involves goods or services being shipped, but the seller is never paid. According to the FBI’s 2021 Internet Crime Report, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received a combined 108,869 complaints of non-delivery/non-payment crimes in 2021, totaling over $337 million in losses to victims.

Other scams to be mindful of this season include:

  • Online Shopping Scams
    • Scammers offer deals through phishing e-mails or advertisements.
  • Social Media Scams
    • Scammers will use social media sites to offer holiday promotions, vouchers or gift cards through the completion of surveys designed to compromise your personal information.
  • Gift Card Scams
    • Victims receive a spoofed e-mail, call or text asking them to purchase multiple gift cards for personal or business reasons.
  • Charity Scams
    • Criminals set up fake charities and profit from persons who believe they are donating to a legitimate organization. Verify a valid Taxpayer Identification number by calling the charity directly or visiting their website.
  • Smartphone App Scams
    • Scammers design mobile apps designed as free games that steal your personal information.

What To Do If You Are A Victim?

If you find you’ve been victimized by an online scam, FBI Richmond recommends taking the following actions:

  • Contact your financial institution immediately after discovering any fraudulent or suspicious activity and request they stop or reverse the transactions.
  • Request your financial institution contact the corresponding financial institution where the fraudulent or suspicious transfer was sent.
  • Report the activity to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.IC3.gov, regardless of the dollar loss; documenting all relevant information in the complaint.

Additional (FBI.gov) Resources:

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