Watch out for holiday scams, FBI warns

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The FBI is warning shoppers to watch out for fraudulent activity this holiday season that comes in the form of non-delivery and non-payment scams. 

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According to the FBI, non-delivery scams occur when a buyer pays for goods or services online that are never received. Meanwhile, a non-payment scam is when a seller sends an item or service but is never paid. 

The FBI's warning comes at a time when droves of consumers are purchasing holiday gifts online, making them more susceptible to these types of scams. 

"More than ever consumers are shopping online and using alternative payment methods, aside from cash," said Susan Ferensic, special agent in charge of the FBI's Columbia Field Office. "Criminals have adapted to the way we shop, and they work overtime to create elaborate schemes to steal from us." 

SCAM ALERT stamp isolated on white.  (istock / iStock)

During the 2020 holiday season, the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center had more than 17,000 complaints of non-delivery goods. These complaints resulted in the loss of more than $53 million, the FBI said. 

"With the holidays upon us and seasonal shopping in full gear, criminals are set to look for opportunities to take advantage of consumers," the FBI said. 

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To help, the agency listed six common holiday scams to be vigilant of. 

This includes online scams, which typically use phishing emails or advertisements, and social media scams where scammers try to use fake vouchers or gift cards.

"These [social media] scams often lead consumers to complete online surveys designed to steal personal information," the FBI said. 

The agency also cautioned consumers about smartphone app scams where "scammers design mobile apps disguised as free games that steal personal information." 

Scammers are also capitalizing on the work-from-home model, according to the FBI. In some cases, scammers are using certain websites and social media sites to offer working from home opportunities. 

"Convenience is the attention grabber, but there may be fraudulent intentions," the FBI said.  

Gift card scams and charity scams are also common. With gift card scams, scammers try to encourage consumers through e-mail, call, or text to "purchase multiple gift cards for person or business reasons," the FBI said. 

In some cases, scammers have also set up false charities in an effort to profit off of individuals who are trying to donate to legitimate organizations.

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