THOUSANDS of seasonal scams are expected over the Christmas period, as the FBI warns buyers to stay vigilant when buying online.
While shoppers bulk up on gifts ahead of the holiday season, scammers are preparing for their busiest season of the year, as more than $53 million was lost to scams last Christmas.
The FBI and Better Business Bureau are warning buyers to beware this Christmas shopping season, as they are expecting an increase in scams that could rob you of hard-earned money, personal information, and a festive mood.
Last year the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center received more than 17,000 complaints of the non-delivery of goods, which resulted in more than $53 million in losses during the 2020 holiday season.
The two most common of these holiday scams are non-delivery and non-payment crimes.
A non-delivery scam means a buyer pays for goods or services they find online, but those items are never received.
While a non-payment scam involves goods or services being shipped, but the seller is never paid.
The FBI says you should never wire money or use gift cards to make a purchase.
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Christina Garza, FBI Public Affairs Officer said: “Try and pay with a credit card.
"But again, if anyone is asking you to pay in the form of a gift card, Bitcoin, cryptocurrency [that’s a] big red flag.
“Make sure that it’s a legitimate web link. Try and do that research on your own versus clicking a link that you see in an email or in a text that someone sent you, or even in an ad on social media sites.”
Kansas City-based FBI forensic accountant Brian Koechner said: "Every year thousands of people become victims of different holiday scams and these scammers will take your money or your personally identifiable information.
"Remember this holiday season if it seems too good to be true, it probably is."
According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center’s (IC3) 2020 report, non-payment or non-delivery scams cost people more than $265 million. Credit card fraud accounted for another $129 million in losses.
FBI TIPS TO AVOID SCAMS
If you are buying goods, here are some tips from the FBI to avoid scams:
- 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.
- 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.
Claudia Massie, Brazos Valley Adult Protective Services Board President also added: “I would just say be vigilant, being very careful not to be impulsive and not to purchase things on impulse."
While Katie Galan, Better Business Bureau Regional Director urged buyers to know exactly where they are ordering from.
She said: “If you’re looking at virtual purchases, something that we do see a lot of during the holiday season are dummy sites.
“Really a good rule of thumb especially during the holiday season is to just kind of go with these retailers that you already know and you already trust.”
Dummy sites are websites that look legitimate but are actually fraudulent, fake, or scams themselves.
The FBI also recommends you contact law enforcement if you’ve been scammed, regardless of whether it’s a small or large amount of money.
You can report a scam to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.
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