Holiday Scams to Be Aware Of

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As more consumers choose to shop online rather than in person, the FBI’s Phoenix Field Office recently issued a press release about the many different types of scams to be aware of this holiday season.

According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), Arizona ranked 14th out of the 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.

“With more people shopping online and avoiding stores this holiday season, we just want to make sure to educate and warn the public that holiday scams are out there and they come in all shapes and sizes,” said Brooke Brennan, public affairs officer for FBI Phoenix-Tucson.

“Some scams that we are warning people about this holiday season are non-payment/non-delivery, online shopping, social media, reshipping and gift cards. [These scams] seem to be the main ones of focus. The non-payment/non-delivery scams in 2020 alone cost Arizona consumers just less than $4 million. So it’s a pretty significant scam we’re seeing here in Arizona.”

Elders tend to fall victim to these scams more often than any other age group, so it is a good idea to help educate family members about the red flags to look out for. As you are shopping online, if a company asks you to pay with a gift card or a wire transfer, use extra caution. Credit cards have added security against fraud, so that’s generally the safest way to pay for your online shopping.

If you are a victim of an internet scam, the FBI recommends taking the following actions:

  • Report it to the FBI IC3 at www.ic3.gov. as quickly as possible.
  • Report the activity to the online payment service used for the financial transaction.
  • Contact your financial institution immediately to stop or reverse the transaction. Ask your financial institution to contact the corresponding financial institution where the fraudulent or suspicious transfer was sent.

Tips to Protect Yourself From Holiday Scammers

  • Verify websites prior to making a purchase. Only purchase items from official websites that use encryption. Web addresses should begin with https:// and display a locked padlock icon.
  • Be wary of online retailers who use a free email service instead of a company email address.
  • Do not judge a company by its website; flashy websites can be set up and taken down quickly.
  • Pay for items using a credit card dedicated for online purchases. Check your statement frequently, and never save payment information in online accounts.
  • Be wary of sellers who accept only wire transfers, virtual currency, gift cards or cash, as these types of funds are almost impossible to recover.
  • Never make purchases using public Wi-Fi.
  • Verify the legitimacy of a seller before you purchase. Take steps such as looking at consumer reviews and checking with the Better Business Bureau.
  • Beware of sellers posting under one name but requesting funds to be sent to another individual, or any seller claiming to be inside the country but requesting funds to be sent to another country.
  • Only purchase gift cards directly from a trusted merchant.
  • Do not click on links or provide personal or financial information to an unsolicited email.
  • Make sure antivirus/malware software is up to date and block pop-up windows.
  • Use safe passwords or pass phrases. Never use the same password on multiple accounts.
  • As always—if the deal sounds too good to be true, chances are it’s a scam.
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