FBI Warns of Sneaky Holiday Online Shopping Scams

Criminals don’t take the holidays off, they are busy gearing up for an active season of their own. With seasonal shopping in full swing, the FBI reminds shoppers to look out for scams designed to steal money and personal information, especially while shopping online.

If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers may offer too-good-to-be-true deals through phishing e-mails or advertisements. Some may offer brand name merchandise at extremely low discounts or promise gift cards as an incentive to purchase a product. Others may offer products at a great price, but the products being sold are not the same as the products advertised.

Do not open any unsolicited e-mails and do not click on any links attached. Steer clear of suspicious sites, phishing e-mails, or ads offering items at unrealistic discounts. You may end up paying for an item, giving away personal information and credit card details, and receive nothing in return except a compromised identity.

When shopping online, do your research. Make sure a site is secure and reputable before providing your credit card number. Don’t trust a site just because it claims to be secure, and beware of purchases or services that require you to pay with a gift card.

Beware of social media posts that appear to offer special vouchers or gift cards. Some may pose as holiday promotions or contests. It may even appear that a friend shared the link. Often, these scams lead you to participate in an online survey that is actually designed to steal personal information.

Protect yourself. Secure your banking and credit accounts with strong and different passwords, as well as all other accounts that contain anything of value – such as rewards accounts, online accounts that save your payment information, or accounts containing private, personal information.

Check your credit card and bank statements regularly to make sure no fraudulent charges have been made to your account.

Last year, Arizona ranked 15th in the number of alleged scam victims, losing more than $59-million. The number one scam involved transactions – either not getting what you ordered or not receiving payment for what you sold.

If you suspect you’ve been victimized:

  • Contact your financial institution immediately upon suspecting or discovering a fraudulent transfer.
  • Request that your bank reach out to the financial institution where the fraudulent transfer was sent.
  • Contact local law enforcement.
  • File a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov, regardless of dollar loss.

To protect yourself:

  • Only go to secure known websites
  • Beware of links in Facebook posts or even from friends
  • Check credit statements thoroughly for fraud.