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Holiday shopping scams are here – 8 ways to stay safe

Ready or not, the holidays are upon us. That means you’re probably trying to complete your Christmas gift list. If you’re ordering gifts online, you don’t want to leave a trail that will ruin the surprise. Tap or click here for the best ways to hide what you purchase online.

But spoilers are the least of your worries this year. Thieves are already targeting online holiday shoppers. If you fall for the scams, not only will you not receive the gifts you buy, but you’ll also be out of the money you spent.

Read on for details on the most common scams and ways to avoid falling victim.

Here’s the backstory

When special shopping days approach, scammers are out in full force with fake advertisements and scam messages. These usually involve highly-sought after products at incredibly low prices.

Several variations exist of these scams, but according to the FBI, the most prominent one is where the seller never ships your order. For example, the price of a luxury handbag might be too good to ignore, and you decide to buy it. But you’ll receive no communication or delivery once you pay for the goods.

The Internet Crime Complaint Center’s (IC3) report shows that non-payment or non-delivery scams cost people more than $337 million last year. Credit card fraud accounted for another $173 million in losses.

Another strategy of scammers is to send spam emails advertising high-value items with a malicious link or redirect to a fake website.

More scams to watch for 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.

What you can do about it

Don’t let scams put a damper on your holidays. There are a few things you can do to stay safe. Here are some suggestions.

  • Don’t click suspicious links or attachments in emails, text messages, websites, or social media. Phishing scams and comparable crimes get you to click on links and give up personal information like your name, password, and bank account number. In some cases, you may unknowingly download malware to your device. 
  • Be careful if a company asks you to update your password or account information. Look up the company’s phone number and call the company to verify you’re actually dealing with them.
  • When buying things online, check each website’s URL to ensure 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 your information on that site.
  • Verify a seller’s legitimacy before moving forward with a purchase. Check their feedback rating if you’re using an online marketplace or auction website. Be wary of buyers and sellers with primarily negative feedback ratings or no ratings at all.
  • 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 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 your item. 
  • Use a credit card when shopping online and check your statement regularly. Contact your credit card company to dispute the charge if you see a suspicious transaction.
  • Always get tracking numbers for items you buy online to ensure they have been shipped and follow the delivery process.

One of the critical things to remember when finding holiday gifts online, if the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is a scam.

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