ATLANTA — Holiday scams are on the rise, and according to the FBI, thieves are finding new ways to take advantage of people online during a giving season.
FBI Supervisory Special Agent Aaron Seres warns that scammers are getting better at masking themselves as legitimate sellers, particularly online. One of the biggest scams this year is charity scams, with Seres advising people to look for traditional, legitimate websites when making donations.
On a normal day, the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) said they receive around 2,500 complaints about online scams.
This holiday season, the FBI is anticipating a higher loss from romance and investment scams. The department said this is due to an increase in a scam called "Pig Butchering." This scam involves the thief building a trusted online relationship with the victim to "fatten them up," convincing them to send money or invest in high-yield cryptocurrency accounts and then disappearing with the funds.
Thieves are also using texting and social apps to target victims. Gift cards are highly preferred since they are harder to trace than other types online currency.
Seres advises last-minute shoppers to be wary of prices that seem too good to be true. Many thieves offer to buy last-minute, hot items at extremely low prices only to never deliver the product. The IC3 received more than 44,220 complaints for non-payment/non-delivery scams with losses exceeding $276 million from January to October of 2022.
Victims of any type of scam are advised to first contact their local bank to try and recover their money, then file a report with local police and finally report the scam to the FBI. The department also laid out a few more tips on avoiding scams and what victims can do.
Tips to Avoid Being Victimized
- Do your homework on the retailer/website/person to ensure legitimacy.
- Conduct a business inquiry of the online retailer on the Better Business Bureau’s website (www.bbb.org).
- Be wary of online retailers offering goods at significantly discounted prices.
- 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 your information on that site.
- Beware of purchases or services that require payment with a gift card.
- Beware of providing credit card information when requested through unsolicited emails.
- Do not click on links contained within an unsolicited email or respond to them.
- Check credit card statements routinely.
- Verify requests for personal information from any business or financial institution by contacting them using the main contact information on their official website.
- Secure credit card accounts, even reward accounts, with strong passphrases. Change passwords and check accounts routinely.
What to Do if You Are a Victim
The FBI recommends victims of an online scam to take the following actions:
- Contact your financial institution immediately upon discovering any fraudulent or suspicious activity and direct them to stop or reverse the transactions.
- Ask your financial institution to contact the corresponding financial institution where the fraudulent or suspicious transfer was sent. Report the activity to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at IC3.gov, regardless of dollar loss. Provide all relevant information in the complaint.