The FBI is warning Americans to be wary of an increase in holiday scams. According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, or IC3, 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 that non-delivery and non-payment scams together affected more than 65,000 victims, causing 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 FBI says always be wary of deals that seem too good to be true. They released a number of tips to help consumers avoid scams.
Always get a tracking number for items purchased online. A customer can then make sure the item or items 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 U.S., 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 a 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. 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. On an online marketplace or auction website, check a buyer or seller's 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.
Anyone who becomes the victim of a holiday scam should contact their bank immediately then inform their local law enforcement agency and file a complaint with IC3 at ic3.gov.