FBI warns of common online scams

ENID, Okla. — As holiday shopping continues to trend toward online, the FBI is warning those who make purchases or sell online to be aware of common scams that crop up around the holiday season.

According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), thousands become victims of holiday scams each year. Scammers can rob you of hard-earned money, personal information, and, at the very least, a festive mood.

The two most prevalent of these holiday scams are non-delivery and non-payment crimes.

In a non-delivery scam, a buyer pays for goods or services they find online, but those items are never received. Conversely, a non-payment scam involves goods or services being shipped, but the seller is never paid.

In 2018, the IC3 estimates non-delivery and non-payment scams together affected more than 65,000 victims resulting in almost $184 million in losses.

Similar scams to beware of this time of year are auction fraud, where a product is misrepresented on an auction site, and gift card fraud, when a seller asks you to pay with a pre-paid card.

The IC3 receives a large volume of complaints in the early months of the year, suggesting a correlation with the previous holiday season’s shopping scams.

Do your part to avoid becoming a victim. These tips from the IC3 can help you look out for scammers during the holiday season or any other time of year:

• Always get a tracking number for items purchased online so you can make sure they have been shipped and can follow the delivery process.

• Be wary of sellers who post an auction or advertisement as if they reside in the United States, then respond to questions by stating they are out of the country on business, family emergency or similar reasons.

• Avoid sellers who post an auction or advertisement under one name but ask that payment be sent to someone else.

• Consider canceling your purchase if a seller requests funds be wired directly to them via a money transfer company, pre-paid card or bank-to-bank wire transfer. Money sent in these ways is virtually impossible to recover, with no recourse for the victim. Always remember that anyone who asks you to use one of these forms of payment might be a scammer. A credit card is generally the safest way to pay for an online purchase.

• Avoid sellers who act as authorized dealers, or factory representatives, of popular items in countries where there would be no such dealers.

• 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 buyers who request their purchase be shipped using a certain method to avoid customs or taxes inside another country.

• Be suspect of any credit card purchases where the address of the cardholder does not match the shipping address. Always receive the cardholder’s authorization before shipping any products.

• Always be wary of deals that seem too good to be true.

If you do become the victim of a holiday scam, contact your bank immediately. You should also inform your local law enforcement agency, and file a complaint with the IC3 at ic3.gov.

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Rains is police and court reporter for the Enid News & Eagle. Follow him on Twitter, @cassrains.
Have a question about this story? Do you see something we missed? Do you have a story idea for Cass? Send an email to crains@enidnews.com.

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