Articles & Updates
Watch Out for Holiday Scams!
When shopping online during the holiday season—or any time of year—always be wary of deals that seem too good to be true. Do your part to avoid becoming a scammer’s next victim.
Every year, thousands of people become victims of holiday scams. Scammers can rob you of hard-earned money, personal information, and, at the very least, a festive mood.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the two most prevalent of these holiday 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.
The FBIs Internet Crime Complaint Center’s 2021 report states that non-payment or non-delivery scams cost people more than $337 million. Credit card fraud accounted for another $173 million in losses.
Similar scams to beware of this time of year are auction fraud, where a product is misrepresented on an auction site, and gift card fraud, when a seller asks you to pay with a prepaid card.
If You’ve Been Scammed
- Call your credit card company or your bank. Dispute any suspicious charges.
- Contact local law enforcement.
- Report the scam to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at ic3.gov.
- Tips to Avoid Holiday Scams
- Whether you’re the buyer or the seller, there are a number of ways you can protect yourself—and your wallet.
Practice good cybersecurity hygiene.
Don’t click any suspicious links or attachments in emails, on websites, or on social media. Phishing and/or Spoofing scams get you to click on links and give up personal information like your name, password, and bank account number. In some cases, you may unknowingly download malware to your device.
Phishing schemes often use techniques to lure you in and get you to take the bait. These scams are designed to trick you into giving information to criminals that they shouldn’t have access to, such as usernames, passwords, bank account information, etc.
Spoofing is when someone disguises an email address, sender name, phone number or website URL – often just by changing one letter, symbol, or number – to convince you that you are interacting with a trusted source.
Be especially wary if a company asks you to update your password or account information. Look up the company’s phone number on your own and call the company. Scammers use technology to change the phone number that appears on your caller ID, so the name and number you see might not be real or they spoof a legitimate number to appear to be real.
Know who you’re buying from or selling to.
- Check each website’s URL to make sure it’s legitimate and secure. A site you’re buying from should have https in the web address. If it doesn’t, don’t enter your information on that site.
- If you’re purchasing from a company for the first time, do your research and check reviews.
- Verify the legitimacy of a buyer or seller before moving forward with a purchase. If you’re using an online marketplace or auction website, check their feedback rating. Be wary of buyers and sellers with mostly unfavorable feedback ratings or no ratings at all.
- Avoid sellers who act as authorized dealers or factory representatives of popular items in countries where there would be no such deals.
- Be wary of sellers who post an auction or advertisement as if they reside in the U.S., then respond to questions by stating they are out of the country on business, family emergency, or similar reasons.
- Avoid buyers who request their purchase be shipped using a certain method to avoid customs or taxes inside another country.
- Be careful how you pay.
- Never wire money directly to a seller.
- Avoid paying for items with prepaid gift cards. In these scams, a seller will ask you to send them a gift card number and PIN. Instead of using that gift card for your payment, the scammer will steal the funds, and you’ll never receive your item.
- Use a credit card when shopping online and check your statement regularly. If you see a suspicious transaction, contact your credit card company to dispute the charge.
- Monitor the shipping process.
- Always get tracking numbers for items you buy online, so you can make sure they have been shipped and can follow the delivery process.
- Be suspect of any credit card purchases where the address of the cardholder does not match the shipping address when you are selling. Always receive the cardholder’s authorization before shipping any products.
- Be suspect of texts or email messages claiming to be from a delivery service with information about a delivery.
- Messages will typically include fake tracking numbers or information about a supposed missed or rescheduled delivery and will include a link to set a new delivery date. Clicking on the link will take you to a fake website designed to steal your sensitive information or you will be asked to pay a fee to release your shipment.
And remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is!