'Tis the season for holiday scams

The Best Times Digital Edition

Oct. 26, 2021

During the holiday season, scammers focus less on giving and more on stealing.

According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), Kansans lost more than $16 million in 2020 due to Internet crimes, including a variety of scams. This year, the FBI wants local shoppers to enjoy a scam-free holiday season by remaining vigilant against the following schemes.

Online Shopping Scams: If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is! Scammers often offer amazing deals via phishing emails or advertisements. Such schemes may offer brand-name merchandise at extremely low prices or offer gift cards as an incentive. Other sites may offer products at a great price, but the products being sold are not the same as the products advertised. Victims may end up paying for an item, giving away personal information, and receive nothing in return except a compromised identity.

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 receive either a spoofed email, 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. The gift cards are then used to facilitate the purchase of goods and services, which may or may not be legitimate.

Payment Red Flags: 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. Credit cards provide several layers of security against fraud and are typically the safest way to conduct online shopping.

Charity Scams: Charity-related frauds increase during the holidays as individuals seek to donate money to those less fortunate. Criminals use phone calls, email campaigns, and fake websites to solicit on behalf of fraudulent charities. Scammers target people who want to donate to charity, then hoard their well-intentioned donations while those most in need never see a dime.

Tips to protect yourself from holiday fraud schemes

  •  Buy directly from a secure and reputable website.
  •  Verify the legitimacy of buyers or sellers before making a purchase.
  •  Avoid solicitations or ads with misspelled words, broken English, or requests to pay for your order with a gift card.
  •  Check credit card statements routinely. If possible, set up credit card transaction auto alerts or check your balance after every online purchase. It is important to check statements after the holiday season, as many fraudulent charges can show up even several weeks later.
  •  Be cautious of emails claiming to contain pictures in attached files, as the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders and scan all attachments for viruses if possible.
  •  Verify requests for personal information from any business or financial institution by contacting them using the main contact information on their official website.
  •  Only donate to known and trusted charities. Legitimate charities do not solicit donations via money transfer services or ask for donations via gift cards.
  •  Make contributions directly, rather than through an intermediary, and pay via credit card or check. Avoid cash donations, if possible.

If you suspect you've been victimized, contact your financial institution immediately, then inform your local law enforcement agency. Victims are also encouraged to file a complaint with the FBI at ic3.gov.