FBI San Diego
Special Agent Davene Butler
(858) 320-1800
December 23, 2020

FBI San Diego Issues Warning About Holiday Shopping and Charity Scams

With more people than ever doing their holiday shopping online, FBI San Diego wants to remind shoppers to look out for scams designed to steal your money and personal information. According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), in 2019, Californians lost over $573,624,151 due to a variety of cyber scams.

Scammers count on you not to do your homework, and to believe those expensive gifts in pop-up ads are truly half price. Don’t fall for it. If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers may offer unbelievable deals through phishing e-mails or advertisements. Some may offer brand name merchandise at extremely low discounts or promise gift cards as an incentive to purchase a product.

Charity related fraud is also on the rise during the holiday season. Scammers try to take advantage of those who want to make end-of-the-year donations. Charity scams are set up and designed to make it easy for you to donate money. Doing a little research will make sure your donation supports a legitimate charity. Beware of organizations with copycat names that are similar to genuine charities. Most reputable charity websites use .org, not .com.

There are ways to protect yourself when shopping and making charitable donations online:

  • 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. If you are requested to act immediately or there is an emergency, it may be a scam. Fraudsters create a sense of urgency to get you to act quickly.
  • 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. Do not click on links within unsolicited e-mails.
  • Track your order through your original confirmation e-mail.
  • Before you give to a charity, keep in mind legitimate charities do not solicit donations via money transfer services or ask for donations via gift cards.
  • If you are not familiar with a charity, search its name plus “complaint” or “rating” to see if fraud has been reported. Beware of organizations with copycat names that are similar to genuine charities.
  • Make contributions directly, never through a third party. Pay with your credit card or check. Don’t give cash donations.
  • Check your credit card and bank statements regularly to make sure no fraudulent charges show up.

If you suspect you've been victimized:

  • Contact your financial institution immediately upon suspecting or discovering a fraud.
  • Contact local law enforcement.
  • File a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.

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