FBI Phoenix
Brooke Brennan and Kevin Smith
(623) 466-1999
December 15, 2020

FBI Tech Tuesday: ‘Tis the Season for Holiday Scams

PHOENIX, AZ—Shoppers looking for a good deal this holiday season, be on the lookout for scammers trying to steal a deal too! According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), Arizona ranked 17 in the number of alleged scam victims reported in 2019, with 7,795 consumers claiming a reported total loss of more than $47 million. This year, FBI Phoenix wants local shoppers to enjoy a scam-free holiday season by remaining vigilant against the following schemes.

Online Shopping Scams: If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is! Scammers often offer amazing deals via phishing emails 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. Victims may end up paying for an item, giving away personal information, and receive nothing in return except a compromised identity.

Social Media Scams: 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.

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 receive either a spoofed email, 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. The gift cards are then used to facilitate the purchase of goods and services, which may or may not be legitimate.

Payment Red Flags: Be cautious of sellers and websites that demand payment solely through gift cards. Scammers 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.

Charity Scams: Charity-related frauds increase during the holidays as individuals seek to donate money to those less fortunate. Criminals use phone calls, email campaigns, and fake websites to solicit on behalf of fraudulent charities. Scammers target people who want to donate to charity, then hoard their well-intentioned donations while those most in need never see a dime.

Tips to protect yourself from holiday fraud schemes:

  • Buy directly from a secure and reputable website.
  • Beware of social media posts that appear to offer special vouchers or gift cards, or particularly low prices.
  • 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 solicitations or ads with misspelled words, broken English, or requests to pay for your order with a gift card.
  • Track your order through your original confirmation email.
  • Check credit card statements routinely. If possible, set up credit card transaction auto alerts or check your 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.
  • Ensure a site is secure and reputable before providing credit card number online. Don’t trust a site just because it claims to be secure.
  • Be cautious of emails claiming to contain pictures in attached files, as the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders and 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.
  • Be cautious when dealing with individuals outside of the country.
  • Only donate to known and trusted charities. Legitimate charities do not solicit donations via money transfer services or ask for donations via gift cards.
  • Make contributions directly, rather than through an intermediary, and pay via credit card or check. Avoid cash donations, if possible.
  • Beware of organizations with copycat names similar to reputable charities; most legitimate charity websites use .org (not .com).

If you suspect you've been victimized, contact your financial institution immediately, then inform your local law enforcement agency or FBI Phoenix at (623)466-1999. Victims are also encouraged to file a complaint with the FBI at ic3.gov.

For more information on Internet scams and how you can protect yourself visit https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/on-the-Internet