ALBUQUERQUE – The Albuquerque FBI Division wants to remind holiday shoppers to be wary of online criminals who will be working overtime to steal your money and personal information.
“The holidays are a busy time for shoppers, and unfortunately, also for thieves,” said Special Agent in Charge Raul Bujanda. “A lot of problems probably could be avoided if people remembered an important rule: If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
New Mexicans lost almost $31 million to online scams in 2020.
The two most prevalent of these holiday scams are non-delivery and non-payment crimes.
In a non-delivery scam, a buyer pays for goods or services they find online, but those items are never received. Conversely, a non-payment scam involves goods or services being shipped, but the seller is never paid.
According to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center’s (IC3) 2020 report, non-payment or non-delivery scams cost New Mexicans approximately $700,000 last year.
Similar scams to beware of this time of year are auction fraud, where a product is misrepresented on an auction site, and gift card fraud, when a seller asks you to pay with a pre-paid card.
The IC3 receives a large volume of complaints in the early months of each year, suggesting a correlation with the previous holiday season’s shopping scams.
If you’ve been scammed:
• Call your credit card company or your bank. Dispute any suspicious charges.
• Contact local law enforcement.
• Report the scam immediately at ic3.gov.
Tips to avoid holiday scams:
• Whether you’re the buyer or the seller, there are a number of ways you can protect yourself — and your wallet.
• Practice good cybersecurity hygiene.
• Don’t click any suspicious links or attachments in emails, on websites, or on social media.
• Phishing scams and similar crimes get you to click on links and give up personal information like your name, password, and bank account number. In some cases, you may unknowingly download malware to your device.
• Be especially wary if a company asks you to update your password or account information. Look up the company’s phone number on your own and call the company.
• Know who you’re buying from or selling to.
• Check each website’s URL to make sure it’s legitimate and secure. A site you’re buying from should have https in the web address. If it doesn’t, don’t enter your information on that site.
• If you’re purchasing from a company for the first time, do your research and check reviews.
• 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 their feedback rating. Be wary of buyers and sellers with mostly unfavorable feedback ratings or no ratings at all.
• Avoid sellers who act as authorized dealers or factory representatives of popular items in countries where there would be no such deals.
• 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 buyers who request their purchase be shipped using a certain method to avoid customs or taxes inside another country.
• Be careful how you pay.
• Never wire money directly to a seller.
• Avoid paying for items with pre-paid gift cards. In these scams, a seller will ask you to send them a gift card number and PIN. Instead of using that gift card for your payment, the scammer will steal the funds, and you’ll never receive your item.
• Use a credit card when shopping online and check your statement regularly. If you see a suspicious transaction, contact your credit card company to dispute the charge.
• Monitor the shipping process.
• Always get tracking numbers for items you buy online, so you can make sure they have been shipped and can follow the delivery process.
• Be suspect of any credit card purchases where the address of the cardholder does not match the shipping address when you are selling. Always receive the cardholder’s authorization before shipping any products.
This article originally appeared on Deming Headlight: FBI warns New Mexicans on holiday scam artists out to steal your money