This holiday season, more shoppers than ever are enjoying the convenience of online shopping. But the sellers you buy from may not be what they seem. Thousands of people fall victim to holiday scams every year. Marvella Gray, community outreach specialist at the FBI Baltimore Field Office, offers some simple tips to shop safely:
- Always get a tracking number for items purchased online so you can make sure they have been shipped and can follow the delivery process.
- Be wary of sellers who post an auction or advertisement as if they reside in the U.S., then respond to questions by stating they are out of the country on business, family emergency, or similar reasons.
- Avoid sellers who post an auction or advertisement under one name but ask that payment be sent to someone else.
- Consider canceling your purchase if a seller requests funds be wired directly to them via a money transfer company, pre-paid card, or bank-to-bank wire transfer. Money sent in these ways is impossible to recover, with no recourse for the victim.
- Avoid sellers who act as authorized dealers or factory representatives of popular items in countries where there would be no such dealers.
- Verify the legitimacy of a buyer or seller before moving forward with a purchase. If you’re using an online marketplace or auction website, check feedback ratings.
- Avoid buyers who request their purchase be shipped using a certain method to avoid customs or taxes inside another country.
- Be suspect of any credit card purchases where the address of the cardholder does not match the shipping address.
- Always be wary of deals that seem too good to be true.
The AARP Fraud Watch Network website provides information about fraud and scams, prevention tips from experts, an interactive scam-tracking map and access to AARP’s hit podcast series, The Perfect Scam.
Consumers may sign up for AARP Fraud Watch Network “Watchdog Alert” emails that deliver information about scams, or call a free helpline at 877-908-3360 to report scams or get help from trained volunteers in the event someone falls victim to scammers’ tactics.
If you believe you or someone you know has become the victim of a holiday scam, contact your local FBI field office or file a complaint at IC3.gov.