2023 Holiday Shopping Scams




2023 Holiday Shopping Scams

The FBI is cautioning online shoppers and vendors to be on the alert for scammers during the 2023 holiday season. Last year, the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received reports of over 12,000 victims who had been duped in non-payment/non-delivery scams, leading to over $73 million in losses. Criminals have many methods for luring and targeting individuals wishing to buy or sell items online.

  • E-mails advertising hot-ticket or hard to find items, such as event tickets or gaming systems, that aren't from a legitimate source.
  • Untrusted websites and social media ads promoting unrealistic discounts and bargains for brand-name items.
  • Social media posts, often appearing to have been shared by a known friend, offering vouchers, gift cards, freebies, and contests.
  • Online surveys designed to steal personal information.
  • Advertisements for pets from sellers who are unable to confirm through in-person visits, video chat, etc. that the pet is real. Often, additional money is requested for various reasons that were not initially disclosed. After funds are sent, the pet never arrives.
  • Online retailers who use a free email service instead of a company email address.
  • Sellers posting online 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.
  • Sellers who request payments through online payment methods that are not protected by the transfer company.
  • Buyers signed up for a subscription or renewal service that wasn't advertised as part of the initial purchase. Read the fine print, know the company's return/exchange policy, ensure the purchase is clearly defined and understood, and monitor financial statements for any unauthorized charges.

  • Buyers who are overly eager and need the gift shipped immediately, pressuring the seller to ship the item.
  • E-mails purporting to be from an online money transfer company claiming the funds have been sent by the buyer, without verification that funds have been received in the seller's account.
  • Buyers who overpay for an item and want the difference sent to a third party.
  • Buyers who receive the merchandise and ask for a refund, but do not send the original merchandise back. The merchandise sent back to secure the refund is typically something of lesser value, or nothing at all.
  • E-mails purporting to be from an online money transfer company claiming the seller must upgrade their account to a "business account" by accepting or transferring an additional amount of money.
  • Buyers who want the items shipped before they will send payment.
  • Buyers who use one name when communicating and use another name or business name for payment purposes.

  • Verify the websites utilized to purchase and sell items. Web addresses should begin with https:// and include a locked padlock icon.
  • Do not judge a company solely by their website as flashy websites can be set up and taken down quickly. Use other methods to verify credentials.
  • Be wary of online transactions that use payment methods such as wire transfers, virtual currency, gift cards, or cash.
  • Pay for items using a credit card dedicated for online purchases, check the card statement regularly, and never save payment information in online accounts.
  • Limit the use of public Wi-Fi, if possible.
  • Verify the legitimacy of all parties involved by looking at consumer reviews and social media pages, as well as checking with the Better Business Bureau.
  • Do not click on links in an unsolicited email or provide personal or financial information.
  • 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, whether you are buying or selling an item online, chances are it is a scam.

If you are a victim of a fraud, the FBI recommends taking the following actions:
  • Report 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.

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