Beware of Holiday Shopping Scams, FBI Warns Consumers
A warning to holiday shoppers from the FBI: If you're spending money online, you have a target on your back. The FBI on Monday issued a warning to shoppers about scams it expects consumers to face in the coming weeks.
Among the goals of the trickery, the FBI said, is to get you to give up your personal information. "Never provide your personal information to an unknown party or untrusted website," the agency said. Always apply the test of "If it seems to be too good to be true, it probably is."
Don't take the bait. "You may end up paying for an item, giving away personal information and credit card details, and then receive nothing in return, along with your identity compromised," the agency warned through its Internet Crime Complaint Center. Similarly, some sites might also show a certain product, but in a "bait and switch" send something different.
And, the FBI warns, crooks can add some credibility to their scams by making the offer appear to have been shared by a friend via email or social media. Apply skepticism when you see a particularly tempting offer and don't provide information to an unknown website.
Some Sample Scams
- Phishing emails pitching "too good to be true deals" on brand-name products. Thieves can make it easy for some to suspend disbelief. "Scammers often use e-mail to advertise hot-ticket items of the year that may become hard to find during the holidays to lure unsuspecting consumers to click on links," the FBI said.
- Make-money-quick offers. If you need money in a hurry during the holidays, you'll be particularly tempted by offers to get some quickly. Resist the temptation, and do thorough research before responding to any offer of work from home or opportunities to make money fast.
- Offers of gift cards to get you to buy products. This deal really will be too good to be true. Even if it's dressed up like a promotion, if a site dangles something like get a free $500 gift card, it's highly unlikely the offer is legitimate. (If you buy a gift card at a store, be sure the scratch-off area has not been tampered with.)
- Offers of gift cards in bulk. Beware of gift cards being sold at a discount or in quantity, particularly on auction sites, the FBI warned.
- Event ticket offers. The barcodes on tickets can get be used by crooks to make a fake ticket that can be resold, creating problems for the person with the real ticket and those who bought the fakes.
- Apps or games designed to steal your personal information. The FBI warns not to download apps unless they're from a known source and have third-party reviews verifying their legitimacy.