Tips to Avoid Being Scammed This Holiday Season

As the holidays approach, the FBI reminds the public to use caution when making online purchases. Cyber criminals continue to create ways to steal your money and personal information. If a deal looks too good to be true, it likely is.

Be wary of e-mails or text messages that indicate a problem or question regarding your financial accounts. Criminals will attempt to direct victims to click a link or call a number to update an account or correct a purported problem. The links may appear to lead you to legitimate websites, but they are not. Any personal information you share on them could be compromised.

The major legitimate delivery service providers do not e-mail customers directly regarding scheduled deliveries; you have to already have an existing account for this type of communication. Nor will they state when a package has been intercepted or is being temporarily held. E-mails about these issues are phishing scams that can lead to personal information breaches and financial losses.

Internet criminals post classified advertisements on auction websites for products they do not have. If you buy merchandise promoted via an online ad or auction site but receive it directly from the retailer, it could be stolen property. You can protect yourself by not providing the seller with your financial information. Use legitimate payment services for transactions.

Fraudsters will also offer reduced or free shipping to auction site customers. They provide fake shipping labels, but they don’t pay for the packages’ delivery. Parcels shipped with these phony labels are intercepted and identified as fraudulent.

It’s safest to purchase gift cards directly from merchants rather than through auction sites or classified ads. If the merchant discovers the card you received from another source was initially fraudulently obtained, the card will be deactivated.

Here are some tips you can use to avoid becoming a victim of cyber fraud:

  • Do not respond to unsolicited (spam) e-mail.
  • Do not click on links contained within an unsolicited e-mail.
  • Be cautious of e-mail claiming to contain pictures in attached files; the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders. Scan the attachments for viruses if possible.
  • Avoid filling out forms contained in e-mail messages that ask for personal information.
  • Always compare the link in the e-mail with the link to which you are directed to determine if they match and will lead you to a legitimate site.
  • Log directly onto a store’s website identified in the e-mail instead of linking to it from an unsolicited e-mail. If the e-mail appears to be from your bank, credit card issuer, or other company you deal with frequently, your statements or official correspondence will provide the proper contact information.
  • Contact the actual business that supposedly sent the e-mail to verify if the e-mail is genuine.
  • If you are asked to act quickly, it may be a scam. Fraudsters often create a false sense of urgency.
  • Verify any requests for personal information by calling the business or financial institution using the phone numbers listed on a billing statement or credit card.

If you have received a suspicious e-mail, file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center: http://www.ic3.gov/.

For more information on e-scams, visit the FBI’s E-Scams and Warnings webpage: http://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/e-scams

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