Ahead of the 2021 holiday season, the FBI Field Office in Columbia, S.C. is warning the public of common holiday scams. Criminals are set to look for opportunities to take advantage of consumers, the FBI office stated, and the FBI is encouraging shoppers to be vigilant for scams that are designed to steal their money and personal information.
The two most prevalent holiday scams are non-delivery and non-payment crimes, the FBI reported. The FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center received more than 17,000 complaints of non-delivery goods, resulting in over $53 million in losses during the 2020 holiday season.
“More than ever consumers are shopping online and using alternative payment methods, aside from cash,” said Susan Ferensic, special agent in charge of the FBI Columbia Field Office. “Criminals have adapted to the way we shop, and they work overtime to create elaborate schemes to steal from us.”
The Better Business Bureau recently released a list of the top 12 scams most likely to catch consumers and donors off guard during the holiday season. That list included:
- Misleading Social Media Ads resulting in people paying for items they never receive, getting charged monthly for a free trial they never signed up for or receiving an item that is counterfeit or much different than the one advertised. Online purchase scams were the most common cons reported to BBB’s Scam Tracker and the category with the most victims.
- Social Media Gift Exchanges, in which participants unwittingly share personal information, along with those of their family members and friends and are further tricked into buying and shipping gifts or money to unknown individuals.
- Holiday Apps, as free apps can sometimes contain more advertising than apps that require a nominal fee and can also contain malware.
- Alerts About Compromised Accounts, in which victims receive an email, call or text message which claims there has been suspicious activity on one of their accounts, and it further urges victims to take immediate action to prevent the account from being compromised. BBB urges people to be extra cautious about unsolicited calls, emails and texts.
- Free Gift Cards, in which scammers impersonate legitimate companies like Starbucks and promise gift cards to loyal customers that have been supporting businesses throughout the pandemic. Scammers may also use pop-up ads or send text messages claiming victims were randomly selected as the winner for a prize.
- Look-Alike Websites in which emails with links enclosed are sent out, with some leading to look-alike websites created by scammers to trick people into downloading malware, making dead-end purchases and sharing private information.
- Fake Charities, as donors are advised to lookout for fraudulent charities and scammers pretending to be individuals in need. Avoid impromptu donation decisions to unfamiliar organizations as responsible organizations will welcome a gift tomorrow as much as today. Websites like give.org or Charity Navigator can also determine the validity of charities.
The FBI advised potential victims of scams to contact their financial institution and local law enforcement agency.
Written by Shepard Price