Shoppers looking for a good deal this holiday season should also be aware of increasingly aggressive and creative scams designed by criminals to steal money and personal information. According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), shoppers should be extra vigilant of the following schemes and red flags.
Online Shopping Scams: If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. Steer clear of unfamiliar sites offering unrealistic discounts on brand name merchandise or gift cards as an incentive to purchase a product, as you may end up paying for an item, giving away personal information, and receive nothing in return except a compromised identity. In addition, do not open any unsolicited e-mails or click on the links provided. Before shopping online, secure all bank and credit accounts with strong and different passwords. The same should be done for airline and rewards accounts, because the emergence of these offerings has led to an increase in the demand for and resale value of stolen information.
Social Media Scams: Beware of posts on social media sites that appear to offer vouchers or gift cards, even if it appears the offer was shared by an online friend. Some may pose as holiday promotions or contests that lead to participation in an online survey designed to steal personal information. In addition, do not post photos of event tickets on social media sites as fraudsters can use the barcode to recreate tickets for resale.
Smartphone App Scams: Some apps, often disguised as games and offered for free, may be designed to steal personal information from your device. Before downloading an app from an unknown source, look for third-party reviews and be mindful that alternative app marketplaces can potentially include stolen content and compromised versions of otherwise trustworthy applications.
Work-From-Home Scams: Beware of postings offering work that can be done from the comfort of home, as these opportunities may have unscrupulous motivations behind them. Take caution when money is required up front for instructions or products, or when a job post claims “no experience necessary.” Carefully research individuals or companies before providing them with personal information and never provide personal information when first interacting with a potential employer.
Additional steps to avoid becoming a victim of fraud:
- Check bank and credit card statements routinely, including immediately after making an online purchase and weeks following the holiday season.
- Only purchase merchandise from a reputable source.
- Don’t trust a website to be secure just because it claims to be.
- Do not respond to spam e-mails or click on links contained within them.
- Avoid filling out forms contained in e-mails that ask for personal information.
- Be cautious of all e-mail attachments and scan them for viruses before opening.
- Verify requests for personal information from businesses or financial institutions by contacting them using the main contact information on their official website.
- Be cautious when dealing with individuals outside of your own country.
How to report fraud: Consumers who suspect they’ve been victimized should immediately contact their financial institution and then law enforcement. They are also encouraged to file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center regardless of dollar amount lost, and provide all relevant information regarding the complaint.