FBI, Mississippi Attorney General, and the Mississippi Office of Homeland Security Caution Consumers on Cyber Monday Fraud
“Buyer Beware”—That is the Message Consumers Should Keep in Mind While Shopping Online
|FBI Jackson November 26, 2013|
With Cyber Monday approaching, consumers should educate themselves to prevent fraud, announced Daniel McMullen, Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Mississippi, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, and Everett L. (Rusty) Barnes, Executive Director of Mississippi’s Office of Homeland Security. These three agencies actively partner to combat crimes involving the use of a computer and the Internet and to enhance public awareness by providing information about those crimes.
Cyber Monday, the year’s busiest online shopping day, occurs each year following the Thanksgiving weekend and brings with it the risk of fraud. Consumers sometimes lose their money, receive counterfeit merchandise, or become victims of credit card fraud.
SAC McMullen stated, “Online consumers should be extra vigilant in their Internet purchases and activity during the holiday season. The FBI and the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) see significant increases around Cyber Monday, and thereafter, in online scams. Fraud schemes are often associated with products or gift cards being sold for dramatically reduced prices; ‘one day only’ websites, offering sales on high-demand items; and ‘phishing’ e-mails, text messages, or phone calls that purport to come from established and well-known retailers. Fraudsters often use the hot items of the season to lure bargain hunters into providing credit card numbers, bank accounts, or detailed personal information. These and other suspicious offers or communications are utilized by criminals as traps amidst the convenience of the online shopping environment. The FBI and IC3 offer tips to help avoid being a victim of these and other cyber scams, particularly during the holiday season.”
Attorney General Hood said, "You should treat online shopping the same as you do mall shopping. Shop only stores you are familiar with or can verify as legitimate, do your comparison research in advance so you know when you are getting the best deal, and don't be afraid to just walk away if something sounds too good to be true or raises your suspicions.”
Director Barnes added, “Like all technology, online shopping offers benefits and risks. While online shopping offers convenience, more shopping venues, and instant information for comparison shopping, consumers should do their homework before sharing credit card, banking, or any other personal or financial information online.”
It’s especially critical around the holiday shopping season that consumers act as the first line of defense to protect themselves from losing their hard earned money by being ripped off. There are some basic principles consumers should consider to avoid being victims of scams for both in-person retail and online shopping. Substandard quality, prices far below retail, and goods being sold at suspicious websites or at locations not ordinarily associated with a particular brand should set off red flags to the consumer.
Here are some tips the FBI suggests for protecting yourself from online fraud.
- Purchase merchandise only from reputable sellers.
- Obtain a physical address and phone number rather than a Post Office box, and call the seller to see if the number is correct and working.
- Send an e-mail to the seller to make sure the e-mail address is active.
- Check with the Better Business Bureau in the seller’s area.
- Inquire about returns and warranties.
- Be wary of overseas sellers who may not be subject to recourse by U.S. law enforcement.
- Do not judge a company by its website. Impressive-looking websites can be set up quickly.
- Use a credit card for purchases rather than a money order or personal check if your credit card company allows you to dispute charges if something goes wrong.
- Shop around to educate yourself about the price range for the item. If the deal sounds is too good to be true, it probably is.
Of course, despite a consumer’s best efforts, sometimes fraud still occurs. If you are a victim of an Internet crime, you may report it to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, known as IC3, a partnership of the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center, at www.ic3.gov. Also visit http://www.iprcenter.gov/WebsiteFraudRedFlagTipSheet_12412.pdf/view for additional information.
SAC McMullen, Attorney General Hood, and Director Barnes agree that a healthy dose of skepticism will go a long way toward keeping people protected when shopping online on Cyber Monday—and throughout the year.