fbi warns of scams

Holiday shopping already is in full swing, and consumers are being warned by law enforcement that the holiday shopping season is open season for online criminals who want to steal money and personal information.

“Shoppers need to be aware there are unscrupulous people out there working overtime to spoil your holidays,” said acting FBI Special Agent in Charge Alvin Winston. “Remember that if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

Winston said Oklahomans lost more than $26 million to online scams in 2020. The two most prevalent holiday scams are non-delivery and non-payment crimes.

Online crimes explainedIn 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 FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center’s (IC3) 2020 report, non-payment or non-delivery scams cost Oklahomans almost $1.7 million last year.

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.

What to do if you’ve

been scammedCall your credit card company or your bank. Dispute any suspicious charges.

Contact local law enforcement.

Report the scam immediately at ic3.gov, which is also a good site to get information about the latest schemes.

Tips to avoid holiday acamsWhether 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 and call to verify.

• Know whom you’re buying from or selling to.

Winston also advised consumers 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. 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 United States, 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 payWinston said consumers should 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.

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