Shopping for the holiday season? Watch out for these scams


HOUSTON – If you’re shopping for the holiday season, the FBI wants to warn you about a few scams this holiday season.

The FBI says the two most common vacation scams are nondelivery and non-payment crimes. In a nondelivery scam, a buyer pays for goods or services they find online, but those items are never received. A non-payment scam involves shipping goods or services, but the seller never gets paid.

According to Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) Report 2020, non-payment or non-delivery scams cost people over $ 265 million. Credit card fraud accounted for an additional $ 129 million in losses.

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The FBI says similar scams to watch out for at this time of year are auction fraud, where a product is misrepresented on an auction site, and gift card fraud when a product is misrepresented on an auction site. seller asks you to pay with a prepaid card.

The IC3 receives a large number of complaints in the first few months of each year, suggesting a correlation with shopping scams from the previous holiday season.

Tips for avoiding scams while on vacation

Whether you are the buyer or the seller, there are many ways to protect yourself and your wallet.

Adopt good cybersecurity hygiene.

  • Don’t click on any suspicious links or attachments in emails, websites or social media. Phishing scams and similar crimes cause you to click on links and give out personal information such as your name, password and bank account number. In some cases, you may unknowingly download malware to your device.
  • Be especially careful if a business asks you to update your password or account information. Find the company phone number yourself and call the company.

Know who you are buying from or who you are selling to.

  • Check the URL of each website to make sure it is legitimate and secure. A site you buy from must have HTTP in the web address. If not, do not enter your information on this site.

  • If this is your first time buying from a business, do your research and check the reviews.

  • Check the legitimacy of a buyer or seller before making a purchase. If you use an online marketplace or auction website, check their rating. Beware of buyers and sellers with mostly unfavorable ratings or no ratings at all.

  • Avoid sellers who act as authorized resellers or factory representatives of popular items in countries where there would be no such offers.

  • Beware of sellers who run an auction or advertisement as if they reside in the United States, then answer the questions by stating that they are overseas for business, family emergency, or similar reasons.

  • Avoid buyers requesting their purchase to be shipped using a certain method to avoid customs or taxes within 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 this gift card for your payment, the scammer will steal the funds and you will 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 the items you buy online, to make sure they have been dispatched and to follow the delivery process.

  • Be suspicious of any credit card purchase where the cardholder’s address does not match the shipping address when you sell. Always receive authorization from the cardholder before shipping products.

And remember: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

If you’ve been scammed:

  • Call your credit card company or your bank. Dispute any suspicious accusations.

  • Contact local law enforcement.

  • Report the scam to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaints Center (IC3) at

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