FBI New York Warns of Holiday Scams
NEW YORK—This holiday season, FBI New York warns shoppers to look out for scams designed to steal your money and personal information. During the 2022 holiday shopping season, the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received reports from almost 12,000 victims resulting in losses over $73 million. According to the IC3, New York State residents suffered nearly $800 million in losses to a variety of scams.
“The holidays are a busy time for shoppers, and unfortunately, for thieves. As scammers continue to perfect their skills, take time to conduct due diligence to thwart their efforts” said James Smith, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI New York Field Office. “The best thing you can do to be a savvy shopper is to know what scams are out there and take some basic precautions. Going directly to a reputable source is the safest way to verify the legitimacy of a transaction.”
Scammers often offer enticing 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. 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. Remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is!
Sellers are urged to beware of buyers who want items shipped before they send payment, especially if those buyers use one name when communicating and another name or business for payment purposes. Also, buyers who overpay for an item and want the difference sent to a third party could be part of a larger fraud scheme.
Online Shopping Scams
- Scammers often offer too-good-to-be-true deals via phishing e-mails, texts, 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.
- Secondary markets for airline miles, gift cards, rewards credits, and other similar products have inadvertently increased the demand for stolen information and boosted its value.
Social Media Shopping Scams (most victims reported):
- Consumers should beware 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.
- Consumers should beware of sites and posts offering work they can do from home. These opportunities rely on convenience as a selling point but may have fraudulent intentions. Consumers should carefully research the job posting and individuals or company offering employment.
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.
- Fraudulent charity scams, in which perpetrators set up false charities and profit from individuals who believe they are making donations to legitimate charitable organizations. Charity fraud rises during the holiday season, when individuals seek to make end-of-year tax deductible gifts or are reminded of those less fortunate and wish to contribute to a good cause. Seasonal charity scams can pose greater difficulties in monitoring because of their widespread reach, limited duration and, when done over the Internet, minimal oversight.
- Charity scam solicitations may come through cold calls, e-mail campaigns, crowdfunding platforms, or fake social media accounts and websites. They are designed to make it easy for victims to give money and feel like they’re making a difference. Perpetrators may divert some or all the funds for their personal use, and those most in need will never see the donations.
Steps to Avoid Holiday Fraud Schemes:
- Before shopping online, secure all your financial accounts with strong passphrases. Make sure to use different passphrases for each financial account.
- Never give personal information— such as your date of birth, home address, Social Security number, or bank account and credit card numbers— to anyone you do not know. Be highly suspicious of social media promotions and giveaways that require your personal information.
- Be wary of online transactions that solely require wire transfers, virtual currency, or gift cards.
- Pay for items using a credit card dedicated for online purchases, check the card statement regularly, and never save payment information in online accounts. Do not use public Wi-Fi, especially when submitting credit card or payment information online.
- Prior to donating to any charity, verify they have a valid Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) by visiting their website or calling the charity directly.
Report Fraud: Shoppers who suspect they’ve been victimized should immediately contact their financial institution, then call their local law enforcement agency. Victims of online holiday scams are also encouraged to file a complaint with the FBI at www.ic3.gov.