FBI Philadelphia
Public Affairs Specialist Carrie Adamowski
December 10, 2020

'Tis the Season for Holiday Shopping Scams

‘Tis the season for holiday gifting and holiday shopping scams. FBI Philadelphia is reminding the public to be vigilant against fraudsters looking to steal your money.

The two most prevalent of these holiday scams are non-delivery and non-payment crimes.

In a non-delivery scam, a buyer pays for goods or services they find online, but those items are never received. Conversely, a non-payment scam involves goods or services being shipped, but the seller is never paid.

Similar 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 you look out for scammers during the holiday season and beyond:

  • Before shopping online, secure all financial accounts with strong passwords or passphrases. The FBI recommends using different passwords for each financial account.
  • As usual, if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Buy directly from a secure and reputable website; steer clear of unfamiliar sites offering unrealistic discounts on brand-name merchandise.
  • Verify the legitimacy of buyers or sellers before making a purchase. If you’re using an online marketplace or auction website, check feedback ratings.
  • Avoid sellers and websites that demand payment solely through gift cards. Scammers also sometimes encourage shoppers to conduct wire transfers, allowing criminals to quickly receive illicit funds. Credit cards provide several layers of security against fraud and are typically the safest way to conduct online shopping.
  • 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 suspect they’ve been victimized should immediately contact their financial institution and their local law enforcement agency.

Victims of holiday scams are also encouraged to file a complaint with the FBI at ic3.gov.