The Federal Bureau of Investigation is warning holiday shoppers to be aware of increasingly aggressive and unorthodox scams designed to steal money and personal information.
Online shopping scams
If a deal looks too good to be true, officials say it probably is.
FBI Pittsburgh said Monday that consumers should steer clear of unfamiliar websites that offer unrealistic discounts on brand name merchandise. Scammers frequently prey on holiday bargain hunters by advertising “one-day only” promotions from recognized brands.
“Without a skeptical eye, consumers may end up paying for an item, giving away personal information, and receive nothing in return except a compromised identity,” the FBI wrote in a press release.
Payment red flags
The FBI says to 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,” the bureau wrote.
It’s best to use credit cards, because they provide several layers of security against fraud and are typically the safest way to conduct online shopping.
While others are focused on giving during the holiday season, others are ready to take advantage of that generosity.
“Charity-related frauds increase during the holidays as individuals seek to donate money to those less fortunate,” said the FBI.
Criminals have been known to use phone calls, email campaigns, and fake websites to solicit on behalf of fraudulent charities. These scammers target people who want to donate to charity, then hoard their well-intentioned donations while those most in need never see a dime.
FBI tips to avoid holiday fraud schemes:
- Before shopping online, secure all financial accounts with strong passwords or passphrases. Additionally, the FBI recommends using different passwords for each financial account.
- Check bank and credit card statements routinely, including after making online purchases and in the weeks following the holiday season.
- Never give personal information— such as your date of birth, Social Security number, or billing addresses— to anyone you do not know.
- Be wary of promotions and giveaways that request your personal information.
- Prior to donating to any charity, verify that they have a valid Taxpayer Identification number by visiting their website or calling the charity directly.