Tis the season for holiday gifting, and many shoppers will go online this time of year to find the best deals on popular items. But the sellers you buy from may not be what they seem. According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), Arizona ranked 14 out of all 50 states in the number of alleged scam victims reported in 2020, with more than 13,000 consumers claiming a reported total loss of more than $72 million across the state. This year, FBI Phoenix wants local shoppers to enjoy a scam-free holiday season by remaining vigilant against the following schemes.
Non-Payment/Non-Delivery Scams: 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. In 2020 alone, IC3 reports this as the fourth biggest scam in losses in Arizona, costing consumers just less than $4 million.
Online Shopping Scams: If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is! Scammers often offer amazing deals via phishing emails or advertisements. Such schemes may offer brand-name merchandise at extremely low prices, or offer gift cards as an incentive. Other sites may offer products at a great price, but the products being sold are not the same as the products advertised. Victims may end up paying for an item, giving away personal information, and receive nothing in return except a compromised identity.
Social Media Scams: Consumers should beware of posts on social media sites that appear to offer vouchers or gift cards. Some may appear as holiday promotions or contests; others may appear to be from known friends who have shared the link. Often, these scams lead consumers to participate in an online survey that is designed to steal personal information. If you click an ad through a social media platform, do your due diligence to check the legitimacy of the website before providing credit card or personal information.
Gift Card Scams: During the holiday season, consumers should be careful if someone asks them to purchase gift cards for them. In these scams, the victims receive either a spoofed e-mail, a spoofed phone call, or a spoofed text from a person in authority requesting the victim purchase multiple gift cards for either personal or business reasons. The gift cards are then used to facilitate the purchase of goods and services which may or may not be legitimate.
Reshipping Scams: These scams involve fraudsters who use stolen credit cards to buy items – usually expensive items – online. Instead of having the items shipped to the billing address, the fraudster sends them to what’s called a “reshipper.” That location then repackages the items and often sends them overseas to be sold at a higher price on the black market.
Tips to protect yourself from holiday fraud schemes:
- Before shopping online, secure all financial accounts with strong passwords or passphrases. Additionally, the FBI recommends using different passwords for each financial account.
- Buy directly from a secure and reputable website.
- Check bank and credit card statements routinely, including after making online purchases and in the weeks following the holiday season.
- Never give personal information—such as your date of birth, Social Security number, or billing addresses—to anyone you do not know.
- Be wary of promotions and giveaways that request your personal information.
- Verify the legitimacy of buyers or sellers before making a purchase. If you’re using an online marketplace or auction website, check feedback ratings.
- Avoid solicitations or ads with misspelled words, broken English, or requests to pay for your order with a gift card.
- Track your order through your original confirmation email.
- Be cautious of emails claiming to contain pictures in attached files, as the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders and scan all attachments for viruses if possible.
- Be cautious when dealing with individuals outside of the country.
If you suspect you’ve been victimized, contact your financial institution immediately, then inform your local law enforcement agency or FBI Phoenix at (623) 466-1999. Victims are also encouraged to file a complaint with the FBI at ic3.gov.
For more information on Internet scams and how you can protect yourself visit, https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/on-the-Internet.