FBI Salt Lake City
Press Office
November 24, 2021

FBI Warns of Holiday Shopping Scams

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… unless you get scammed. The holiday shopping season is in full swing, and so are fraudsters looking to steal your money.

With more people shopping online, the FBI Salt Lake City Field Office is urging the public to keep the old adage in mind: if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Shoppers are encouraged to be diligent about what gifts they are buying and where they’re buying those gifts.

The two most prevalent holiday scams are non-delivery and non-payment crimes. In non-delivery situations, payment is sent, but goods and services are never received. In non-payment scams, goods and services are shipped, but the seller is never paid.

According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center’s (IC3) 2020 report, non-payment or non-delivery scams cost people more than $264 million. Credit card fraud accounted for another $129 million in losses.

FBI Salt Lake City Special Agent Casey Harrington says the holidays are a big time of the year for holiday scammers. "They want to seize on this online demand for toys and other products to try to trick people into giving up their personal information, credit card information, log in information, so they can financially profit from it."

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In Utah, victims reported nearly $3.1 million in losses in non-delivery or non-payment scams last year. In Montana, losses to the same scams amounted to $349,880 and in Idaho, $688,153. Credit card fraud in Utah cost victims $1.5 million in 2020. Montanans reported losses of $137,558, and in Idaho, losses amounted to $760,075 for credit card fraud.

The FBI offers the following tips to protect yourself when shopping online:

Know who you’re buying from or selling to.

  • Check each website’s URL to make sure it’s legitimate and secure. A site you’re buying from should have https in the web address. If it doesn’t, don’t enter your information on that site.
  • If you’re purchasing from a company for the first time, do your research and check reviews.
  • Verify the legitimacy of a buyer or seller before moving forward with a purchase. If you’re using an online marketplace or auction website, check their feedback rating. Be wary of buyers and sellers with mostly unfavorable feedback ratings or no ratings at all.
  • Avoid sellers who act as authorized dealers or factory representatives of popular items in countries where there would be no such deals.
  • Be wary of sellers who post an auction or advertisement as if they reside in the U.S., then respond to questions by stating they are out of the country on business, family emergency, or similar reasons.
  • Avoid buyers who request their purchase be shipped using a certain method to avoid customs or taxes inside another country.

Be careful how you pay.

  • Never wire money directly to a seller.
  • Avoid paying for items with pre-paid gift cards. In these scams, a seller will ask you to send them a gift card number and PIN. Instead of using that gift card for your payment, the scammer will steal the funds, and you’ll never receive your item.
  • Use a credit card when shopping online and check your statement regularly. If you see a suspicious transaction, contact your credit card company to dispute the charge.

Monitor the shipping process.

  • Always get tracking numbers for items you buy online, so you can make sure they have been shipped and can follow the delivery process.
  • Be suspect of any credit card purchases where the address of the cardholder does not match the shipping address when you are selling. Always receive the cardholder’s authorization before shipping any products.

If you suspect you've been victimized, contact your financial institution immediately, call your local law enforcement agency, and file a complaint at ic3.gov.