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FBI Warning: ‘Tis the Season for Holiday Scams

FBI -- FBI Little Rock Press Release Novemberr 18, 2021 

Public Affairs Officer Connor Hagan
(501) 217-2633

FBI Warning: ‘Tis the Season for Holiday Scams

As we approach the holiday season, FBI Little Rock is warning Arkansans that scammers prefer to steal rather than give during this special time of year. Shoppers hunting for a good deal should be on the lookout for increasingly aggressive and innovative scams designed by criminals to steal money and personal information. According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), Arkansans lost over $16,140,000 just in 2020 from to a variety of criminal scams. This year, FBI Little Rock wants shoppers statewide to enjoy a scam-free holiday season by remaining vigilant against the following schemes.

Charity Scams: Charity-related frauds increase during the holidays as individuals seek to donate money to those less fortunate. Criminals use phone calls, email campaigns, and fake websites to solicit on behalf of fraudulent charities. Scammers target people who want to donate to charity, then hoard well-intentioned donations while those most in need never see a dime.

When shopping online during the holiday season—or any time of year—always be wary of deals that seem too good to be true, and do your part to avoid becoming a scammer’s next victim.
Online Shopping Scams: If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is! Stay away from unfamiliar sites offering unrealistic discounts on brand-name merchandise. Scammers frequently prey on Black Friday and Cyber Monday bargain hunters by advertising “One-Day Only” promotions from recognized brands. If you’re purchasing from a company for the first time, research the business and check reviews other customers have shared. If little to no information about a vendor exists, shop elsewhere.

Payment Red Flags: Be cautious of sellers and websites which demand payment solely through gift cards. Scammers sometimes encourage shoppers to conduct wire transfers, which allow criminals to quickly receive illicit funds. Using a credit card provides layers of security against fraud and is typically the safest way to conduct online shopping throughout the holidays.

Additional steps to avoid holiday fraud schemes:

Before shopping online, secure all your financial accounts with strong passphrases. Additionally, the FBI recommends using different passphrases for each financial account.
Check bank and credit card statements routinely, especially 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 suspicious of promotions and giveaways which request your personal information.
Prior to donating to any charity, verify that they have a valid Taxpayer Identification number by visiting their website or calling the charity directly.
Reporting fraud: Shoppers who suspect they’ve been victimized should immediately contact their financial institution, then call their local law enforcement agency or FBI Little Rock at (501) 221-9100. Victims of holiday scams are also encouraged to file a complaint with the FBI at www.ic3.gov.

Holiday Scams 

When shopping online during the holiday season—or any time of year—always be wary of deals that seem too good to be true. Do your part to avoid becoming a scammer’s next victim.
Every year, thousands of people become victims of holiday scams. Scammers can rob you of hard-earned money, personal information, and, at the very least, a festive mood.

The two most prevalent of these holiday scams are non-delivery and non-payment crimes. 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.

According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center’s (IC3) 2020 report, non-payment or non-delivery scams cost people more than $265 million. Credit card fraud accounted for another $129 million in losses.

Similar scams to beware of this time of year are auction fraud, where a product is misrepresented on an auction site, and gift card fraud, when a seller asks you to pay with a pre-paid card.

The IC3 receives a large volume of complaints in the early months of each year, suggesting a correlation with the previous holiday season’s shopping scams.

If You’ve Been Scammed 
Call your credit card company or you bank. Dispute any suspicious charges.
Contact local law enforcement.
Report the scam to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at ic3.gov.
 

Tips to Avoid Holiday Scams 
Whether you’re the buyer or the seller, there are a number of ways you can protect yourself—and your wallet.

Practice good cybersecurity hygiene. 

Don’t click any suspicious links or attachments in emails, on websites, or on social media. Phishing scams and similar crimes get you to click on links and give up personal information like your name, password, and bank account number. In some cases, you may unknowingly download malware to your device. 
Be especially wary if a company asks you to update your password or account information. Look up the company’s phone number on your own and call the company.
Know who you’re buying from or selling to.

Check each website’s URL to make sure it’s legitimate and secure. A site you’re buying from should have https in the web address. If it doesn’t, don’t enter your information on that site.  
If you’re purchasing from a company for the first time, do your research and check reviews.
Verify the legitimacy of a buyer or seller before moving forward with a purchase. If you’re using an online marketplace or auction website, check their feedback rating. Be wary of buyers and sellers with mostly unfavorable feedback ratings or no ratings at all.
Avoid sellers who act as authorized dealers or factory representatives of popular items in countries where there would be no such deals.
Be wary of sellers who post an auction or advertisement as if they reside in the U.S., then respond to questions by stating they are out of the country on business, family emergency, or similar reasons.
Avoid buyers who request their purchase be shipped using a certain method to avoid customs or taxes inside another country.
Be careful how you pay.

Never wire money directly to a seller. 
Avoid paying for items with pre-paid gift cards. In these scams, a seller will ask you to send them a gift card number and PIN. Instead of using that gift card for your payment, the scammer will steal the funds, and you’ll 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 items you buy online, so you can make sure they have been shipped and can follow the delivery process.
Be suspect of any credit card purchases where the address of the cardholder does not match the shipping address when you are selling. Always receive the cardholder’s authorization before shipping any products.

And remember: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.



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