‘Tis the season to beware of phishing threats. The FBI warns of a significant rise in financial damages caused by holiday scams this year as shoppers try to score the best deal.
Keep reading to learn valuable tips to help you avoid scams this holiday shopping season.
FBI warns of phishing holiday scams
Amid the holiday shopping season, the FBI says consumers should be cautious when shopping online, because cybercrooks often impersonate major brands to carry out phishing attacks. They’re most likely after your credentials, which they can use to scam you out of your hard-earned money.
The FBI announced it’s expecting an increase in complaints and losses this holiday season “due to rumors of merchandise shortages and the ongoing pandemic.”
“During the 2020 holiday shopping season, the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received over 17,000 complaints regarding the non-delivery of goods, resulting in losses over $53 million. It is anticipated this number could increase during the 2021 holiday season due to rumors of merchandise shortages and the ongoing pandemic,” the notice writes.
Watch out for red flags
The FBI warns shoppers to be cautious and provides a few examples of how cybercriminals entice their potential victims:
- E-mails advertising hot-ticket or hard to find items, such as event tickets or gaming systems.
- Untrusted websites and ads promoting unrealistic discounts and bargains.
- Social media posts, often appearing to have been shared by a known friend, offering vouchers, gift cards, freebies, and contests.
- Social media hosted advertisements for non-existent or counterfeit items.
- Online surveys designed to steal personal information.
All the above are techniques that scammers use to steal your personal information or payment details.
Tips to avoid being scammed
The FBI also offers some helpful recommendations to help you avoid falling victim to holiday scams:
- If you’re looking to purchase a new pet, the FBI advises you to meet both the owner and the animal in a video chat before buying to minimize the odds of being scammed by sellers of a non-existent furry friend.
- Verify websites prior to making a purchase. Only purchase items from official, encryption-using websites. Web addresses should begin with https:// and include 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 their website; flashy websites can be set up and taken down quickly.
- Pay for items using a credit card dedicated for online purchases, checking the card statement frequently, and never saving payment information in online accounts.
- Be wary of sellers who accept only wire transfers, virtual currency, gift cards, or cash, as these 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 anti-virus/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 is a scam.
If you did fell prey to online fraud, you can report it to the FBI’s www.ic3.gov
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