FBI Portland
Beth Anne Steele
(503) 460-8099
December 18, 2018

Oregon FBI Tech Tuesday: Building a Digital Defense Against Online Shopping Scams

Welcome to the Oregon FBI’s Tech Tuesday segment. This week: building a digital defense against online shopping scams.

If the pressure of the jingle bell frenzy already has you frazzled, you will be happy (or maybe not) to know that Christmas is just one week away. Just seven very short days to get everything done. But, if you are an online shopper and blue-light bargain hunter, you know you’ve got this covered. A few clicks, and you can have your shopping done in a breeze. Be warned, though, that scammers are on the hunt for seasonal shoppers.

It goes like this: your loved one has – with high expectations – placed that new gadget, video game, or collectible on this year’s wish list. You search endlessly for the best value, but the prices are a little higher than you wanted. Then, you stumble upon a deal that blows away the rest. Good price and free shipping? You are sold! Of course, if the scammer got to you, the only thing that shows up at your door is a bill.

In many cases, a fraudulent online store or digital ad promises the best products at low prices, often much lower than what you can find at a known retailer. The victim snaps up the item, but then waits and waits for an item that never arrives. If it does show up, it may be damaged or the box may contain something completely different than what you wanted. You, the buyer, are left with an empty wallet and an empty box under the tree.

As you shop online this holiday season, consider these safe shopping tips:

  • Watch out for luxury brands with significantly low prices.
  • Do a basic online search using the name of the store or vendor in question and the word “scam”.
  • If the seller asks for payment in the form of gift cards or wire transfers, don’t do it. This is a huge red flag.
  • Keep an eye out for typos in the item listing or on the seller’s website.
  • Finally, before ordering, check to make sure there is legitimate contact information for the store or seller in the event that you have a problem.

A few simple steps can make a big difference this holiday season.

If you have been victimized by this scam or any other online scam, report it to the FBI. You can file an online report at the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov or call your FBI local office.