“As you shop online during this holiday season, remember that it’s also the season for holiday scammers to try to swindle you out of your hard-earned money,” said Jeffrey R Downey, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI El Paso Field Office. “Scammers are creative all year long, but during the holiday shopping season they will try a variety of ways to prey on unsuspecting shoppers. The simplest tips can save you a lot of money: verify the legitimacy of websites before providing financial or personal information; if the deal from an unknown seller looks too good to be true, it probably is.” The police also lists some common online shopping scams:
Social media shopping 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.
Consumers should beware of sites and posts offering work they can do from home. These opportunities rely on convenience as a selling point but may have fraudulent intentions. Consumers should carefully research job posting and individuals or companies offering employment.
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 received either a spoofed e-mail, 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.
As an example, a victim receives a request to purchase gift cards for a work-related function or as a present for a special occasion. The gift cards are then used to facilitate the purchase of goods and services, which may or may not be legitimate.
Fraudulent charity scams, in which perpetrators set up false charities and profit from individuals who believe they are making donations to legitimate charitable organizations. Charity fraud rises during the holiday season, when individuals seek to make end-of-year tax deductible gifts or are reminded of those less fortunate and wish to contribute to a good cause. Seasonal charity scams can pose greater difficulties in monitoring because of their widespread reach, limited duration and, when done over the Internet, minimal oversight.
Charity scam solicitations may come through cold calls, e-mail campaigns, crowdfunding platforms, or fake social media accounts and websites. They are designed to make it easy for victims to give money and feel like they’re making a difference. Perpetrators may divert some or all the funds for their personal use, and those most in need will never see the donations.
Smartphone app scams
Some mobile apps, often disguised as games and offered for free, are designed to steal personal information. Before downloading an app from an unknown source, consumers should research the company selling it or giving it away and look online for third-party reviews of the product. Consumers should also be mindful that alternative app marketplaces available to “jailbroken” or “rooted” devices can potentially include copyright infringement, stolen content, and compromised versions of otherwise trustworthy applications.