‘Tis the Season for Holiday Online Shopping Scams—Don’t Be a Victim
MEMPHIS, TN—The FBI Memphis Field Office, which covers middle and west Tennessee, is reminding Tennesseans to look out for scams designed to steal your money and personal information. Remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is! “According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), in 2022, Tennesseans lost $103,960,100 due to a variety of scams,” said Special Agent in Charge Douglas DePodesta of the FBI Memphis Field Office. “Remain vigilant and enjoy a scam-free holiday season. If you believe you have been the victim of a scam, report it to the FBI at IC3.gov.” Common Scams Online Shopping Scams:
- Scammers often offer too-good-to-be-true deals via phishing e-mails or advertisements. Such schemes may offer brand-name merchandise at extremely low prices or offer gift cards as an incentive. Other sites may offer products at a great price, but the products being sold are not the same as the products advertised.
- Consumers should steer clear of untrustworthy sites or ads offering items at unrealistic discounts or with special coupons. The victims end up paying for an item, give away personal information and credit card details, then receive nothing in return except a compromised or stolen identity.
Social Media Shopping Scams:
- Consumers should be aware of posts on social media sites that appear to offer vouchers or gift cards. Some may appear as holiday promotions or contests. Others may appear to be from known friends who have shared the link. Often, these scams lead consumers to participate in an online survey that is designed to steal personal information.
- If you click an ad through a social media platform, do your due diligence to check the legitimacy of the website before providing credit card or personal information.
Gift Card Scams:
- During the holiday season, consumers should be careful if someone asks them to purchase gift cards for them. In these scams, the victims received either a spoofed e-mail, a spoofed phone call, or a spoofed text from a person in authority requesting the victim purchase multiple gift cards for either personal or business reasons.
- As an example, a victim receives a request to purchase gift cards for a work-related function or as a present for a special occasion. The gift cards are then used to facilitate the purchase of goods and services, which may or may not be legitimate. Some of these incidents are combined with additional requests for wire transfer payments, as described in classic Business e-mail Compromise (BEC) scenarios.
- These scams involve fraudsters who use stolen credit cards to buy items—usually expensive items—online. Instead of having the items shipped to the billing address, the fraudster sends them to what’s called a “reshipper.” At the “reshipper” location, the items are repackaged and usually sent overseas. There, they can often be sold at a high price on the black market.
- Fraudsters will convince unwitting individuals to be money mules and accept the deliveries and become the “reshipper.” That person has now become part of their criminal enterprise without knowing it. Don’t be a money mule!
Tips to Avoid Being Victimized
- Do your homework on the retailer/website/person to ensure legitimacy.
- Conduct a business inquiry of the online retailer on the Better Business Bureau’s website (www.bbb.org).
- Check other websites regarding the company for reviews and complaints.
- Check the contact details of the website on the “Contact Us” page, specifically the address, e-mail, and phone number, to confirm whether the retailer is legitimate.
- Be wary of online retailers offering goods at significantly discounted prices.
- Be wary of online retailers who use a free e-mail service instead of a company e-mail address.
- Don’t judge a company by their website; flashy websites can be set up and taken down quickly.
- Be aware of purchases or services that require payment with a gift card.
- Be aware of providing credit card information when requested through unsolicited e-mails.
- Do not click on links contained within an unsolicited e-mail or respond to them.
- Check credit card statements routinely. If possible, set up credit card transaction auto alerts, or check balance after every online purchase. It is important to check statements after the holiday season, as many fraudulent charges can show up even several weeks later.
- Avoid filling out forms contained in e-mail messages that ask for personal information.
- Be cautious of e-mails claiming to contain pictures in attached files, as the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders. Scan all attachments for viruses if possible.
- Verify requests for personal information from any business or financial institution by contacting them using the main contact information on their official website.
- Secure credit card accounts, even rewards accounts, with strong passwords. Change passwords and check accounts routinely.
- Make charitable contributions directly, rather than through an intermediary, and pay via credit card or check; avoid cash donations, if possible.
- Be aware of organizations with copycat names similar to reputable charities; most legitimate charity websites use .org (NOT .com).
- Don’t be a money mule; it’s illegal!
How to Report If you are a victim of an online scam, the FBI recommends taking the following actions:
- Report the activity to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.IC3.gov, regardless of dollar loss. Provide all relevant information in the complaint.
- Contact your financial institution immediately upon discovering any fraudulent or suspicious activity and direct them to stop or reverse the transactions.
- Ask your financial institution to contact the corresponding financial institution where the fraudulent or suspicious transfer was sent.
For additional information and consumer alerts, and to report scams to the FBI, visit www.IC3.gov.