‘Tis the Season to Avoid Online Shopping Scams

In 2021, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) reported that Americans lost $337 million to non-payment and non-delivery scams. In these scams, buyers pay for products or services online, but never receive them. Conversely, sellers ship goods or provide services, but never receive payment.

Recognize Warning Signs 

  • Products and services advertised at incredibly low prices— significantly lower than competitors.
  • Sellers that only accept payments by wire transfer, money orders, gift cards, or peer-to-peer payment services like CashApp, Venmo and Zelle.
  • Vague or non-existent contact details or information about returns, exchanges or privacy policies.
  • Websites with poor spelling or grammar.

Practice Good Cyber Habits

  • Be wary about clicking links, especially unsolicited ones you receive via text, social media, or email.
  • If you receive a message about updating your account information or password, do not assume it is safe. Contact the company directly on a verified number, rather than in the message received, to confirm.
  • Only enter your payment information on sites with a URL that includes “https,” as those sites are more secure.
  • Avoid using the same password for every account.

Do Business with Companies You Trust

  • Do your research, check reviews or ratings and search for complaints on a company before buying.
  • Verify contact information on sites to ensure they are legitimate.
  • Be wary of sellers who claim to be U.S. residents, but say they are currently out of the country.
  • Avoid buyers who request purchases be shipped using certain methods to avoid customs or taxes.
  • Monitor the shipping process and obtain tracking numbers.

Your Payment Method Matters

  • Never wire money directly to a seller, because it is unlikely you will receive a refund is there is a dispute.
  • Only use peer-to-peer payments services with people you know, trust, and have met in-person.
  • Be wary of sellers who only accept gift cards or pre-paid debit cards. They may never send what you ordered, and you may be unable to be refunded.

If You Have Been Scammed 

  • Contact your financial institution to report that you have been scammed.
  • Contact local law enforcement.
  • Report the scam to IC3 at www.ic3.gov.

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