As we enter the 2023 holiday season, Texans need to remain vigilant against criminals who care less about giving and more about stealing. Shoppers looking for a good deal this holiday season need to be aware of aggressive and deceptive scams designed by criminals to steal money and personal information.
According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), Texas residents lost over $763 million to fraudsters in 2022, including nearly $20 million in phishing and non-delivery scams. This year, FBI Houston wants Texas Gulf Coast shoppers to enjoy a scam-free holiday season with the following tips:
Buyers Beware: Criminals frequently offer too-good-to-be-true deals via phishing emails, text messages, and online surveys designed to steal personal information. Bottom line: if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is!
Stay clear of unfamiliar sites offering unrealistic discounts on brand-name merchandise. Consumers should also remain skeptical of social media posts offering special deals, vouchers, or gift cards. These scams frequently lead consumers to online surveys designed to steal personal information. Before you click on a social media advertisement or provide credit card information, check the legitimacy of the website through independent research. Without practicing vigilance, shoppers may end up paying for an item, giving away personal information, and receive nothing in return except a compromised identity.
Sellers, Stay Alert: Keep an eye out for buyers who want items shipped before they will send payment, especially if those buyers use one name when communicating and another name or business for payment purposes. Also, buyers who receive your merchandise and ask for a refund, but do not send the original merchandise back may be part of a larger fraud scheme.
Charity Scams: Unscrupulous criminals capitalize on charity-related fraud during the holidays since they know kind-hearted individuals seek to donate to those less fortunate. Criminals use phone calls, email campaigns, and fake websites to solicit on behalf of fraudulent charities. Scammers target people who want to donate to charity, then hoard well-intentioned donations while those most in need never see a dime.
Steps to avoid holiday fraud schemes:
- Before shopping online, secure all your financial accounts with strong passphrases. Make sure to use different passphrases for each financial account.
- Never give personal information— such as your date of birth, home address, Social Security number, or bank account and credit card numbers— to anyone you do not know. Be highly suspicious of social media promotions and giveaways which require your personal information.
- Be wary of online transactions that solely require wire transfers, virtual currency, or gift cards.
- Pay for items using a credit card dedicated for online purchases, check the card statement regularly, and never save payment information in online accounts. Do not use public Wi-Fi, especially when submitting credit card or payment information online.
- Prior to donating to any charity, verify they have a valid Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) by visiting their website or calling the charity directly.
Report fraud: Shoppers who suspect they’ve been victimized should immediately contact their financial institution, then call their local law enforcement agency. Victims of online holiday scams are also encouraged to file a complaint with the FBI at www.ic3.gov.