The local office of the FBI offers these 10 tips to shop safely.
Buying from an auction site
: If you are buying goods online, be wary of buying items that are sold on auction sites or through classified ads.Scammers sometimes will collect credit card numbers, bank account numbers or other financial information directly from the buyer, and then will use that information to make their own purchases. If you are purchasing online, check the seller’s rating or reviews. Be cautious if the seller has a high rating, but few total feedback postings and/or all the feedback was posted about the same time and date.
: If you are giving gift cards, make sure you purchase them directly from a reputable merchant. If you buy a gift card from a third-party website or auction site, it is possible the card was stolen or obtained fraudulently. The merchant will likely deactivate the card, and you are out your money.
Phishing & Spoofing
: A scammer may send you an email or text indicating there is a problem with your credit card, bank account, or other merchant account. It will ask you to follow a link to a spoofed site that looks like the merchant’s site to update your personal information. Don’t do it! No reputable merchant will – unsolicited – ask you for your account number, password or PIN. When in doubt, call the merchant or bank’s published customer service number.
: There are plenty of holiday deals from legitimate merchants, but if the deal is really “too good to be true” – watch out. Fraudsters often use the hot items of the season to lure bargain hunters into providing credit card information.
Must act now
!: Scam artists are known to use pressure, guilt, and the threat of an “emergency situation” to create a sense of urgency. Don’t act impulsively! For instance, if someone calls to tell you your credit card has been stolen and you must give him your PIN so he can deactivate it, hang up and call your bank directly.
: Consumers should be wary of opening attachments, even if you think you recognize the sender. Run a virus scan before opening any attachments, including pictures.
Non-delivery/Non-payment of merchandise
: Buyers and sellers can both be caught in this scam, usually involving online goods. For buyers, they pay for an item but never receive it. For sellers, they send an item, but the payment ends up being fraudulent, and they are out the cash. Always use a reputable online retailer and a reputable money transfer service.
: Many people like to make year-end charitable contributions for tax purposes. Do not respond to unsolicited e-mails or texts, and do not give personal information to someone who contacts you via e-mail or text. Make your contributions directly to known, legitimate organizations instead of relying on others to make the donations for you.
: Consumers use of social media tools, including texting and networking sites, can also be targets for scammers. Just because you received the link or information from a “friend” on a social networking site does not mean it is any more reliable or trustworthy.
Staged auto accidents
: Crowded parking lots are a prime target for scammers staging auto accidents. The perpetrators stage accidents in both vehicles or on foot and claim medical injuries and auto damages against the victim’s insurance. An example is the victim is backing out of a parking place in a crowded shopping center and the perpetrator is “hit” either while walking or in their vehicle.
If you are the victim of a scam or if you are concerned about a particular issue, use www.IC3.gov to file a report or get more information. This is a website run by the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Association.