Avoiding Online Holiday Scams


Last updated 11/20/2023 at 1:22pm | View PDF

Every year, thousands of people become victims of holiday scams. Scammers can rob you of hard-earned money, personal information and, at the very least, a festive mood.

According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, non-payment or non-delivery scams cost people more than $337 million. Credit card fraud accounted for another $173 million in losses.

Also this time of year, beware of 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.

If You’ve Been Scammed

• Call your credit card company or your bank. Dispute any suspicious charges.

• Contact local law enforcement.

• Report the scam to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at ic3.gov.

Tips to Avoid Holiday Scams

• Don’t click any suspicious links or attachments in emails, on websites or on social media. Phishing scams and similar crimes get you to click on links and give up personal information like your name, password and bank account number. You may even unknowingly download malware to your device.

• Be especially wary if a company asks you to update your password or account information. Look up the company’s phone number on your own and call the company.

Who Are You Dealing With?

• Check each website’s URL to make sure it’s legitimate and secure. A site you’re buying from should have https in the web address. If it doesn’t, don’t enter information on that site.

• If you’re purchasing from a company for the first time, do your research and check reviews.

• 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.

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

Be Careful How You Pay

• Never wire money directly to a seller.

• Avoid paying for items with pre-paid gift cards. In these scams, a seller will ask you to send them a gift card number and PIN. Instead of using that gift card for your payment, the scammer will steal the funds, and you’ll never receive the item.

• Use a credit card when shopping online and check your statement regularly. If you see a suspicious transaction, contact your credit card company to dispute the charge.

Monitor Shipping

• Always get tracking numbers for items you buy online, so you can make sure they have been shipped and can follow the delivery process.

• Be suspicious of any credit card purchases where the address of the cardholder does not match the shipping address when you are selling. Always receive the cardholder’s authorization before shipping any products.

And remember: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.


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