FBI Philadelphia
Public Affairs Specialist Sofia Kettler
December 10, 2021

Keep Your Holidays Jolly — Don't Fall for Seasonal Shopping Scams!

Scammers don’t take a holiday, unfortunately, and the top thing on their list right now is stealing people’s hard-earned money.

FBI Philadelphia reminds the public to be vigilant about seasonal shopping scams.

The two most common are non-delivery and non-payment crimes.

In a non-delivery scam, a buyer pays for goods or services they find online, but never receives them. A non-payment scam, meanwhile, is when a seller provides promised goods or services, but never gets paid in return.

Other scams to be aware 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.

Some tips to help scope out scammers during the holiday season and beyond:

  • Secure all financial accounts with strong passwords or passphrases. The FBI recommends using different passwords for each financial account, as well as multifactor authentication, whenever available.
  • Buy directly from secure and reputable websites. Steer clear of unfamiliar sites, especially if they’re offering unrealistic discounts on brand-name merchandise.
  • As usual, if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Before making a purchase, verify the legitimacy of buyers or sellers. If you’re using an online marketplace or auction website, check those feedback ratings. Be wary of any buyers and sellers with lots of unfavorable ratings or no ratings at all.
  • Credit cards provide several layers of security against fraud and are typically the safest way to conduct online shopping.
  • Skip sellers and websites that demand payment solely through gift cards — that’s a major red flag for fraud.
  • Also beware sellers who insist shoppers pay with cryptocurrency or wire transfers, methods allowing them to quickly receive and bank the funds with little recourse for scammed shoppers.
  • Check bank and credit card statements routinely, including after making online purchases and in the weeks following the holidays.
  • Never give personal information like your date of birth or Social Security number to anyone you don’t know.

Shoppers who believe they’ve been victimized should immediately contact their financial institution and their local law enforcement agency. Victims of holiday and other scams are also encouraged to file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov.