FBI Warns of Too-Good-To-Be True Shopping Ripoffs

With the holiday shopping season under way, criminals are also gearing up to do a little ‘shopping’ of their own -- so the FBI is minding people to look out for scams designed to steal your money and personal information, especially while shopping online.

The FBI offers these tips:

--When shopping online, research the legitimacy of the individual or company you are purchasing from. Make sure a site is secure and reputable before providing your credit card number online. Don’t trust a site just because it claims to be secure.

--Beware of purchases or services that require you to pay with a gift card.

--If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers often scheme to defraud consumers by offering too-good-to-be-true deals via phishing e-mails or advertisements. Such schemes may offer brand name merchandise at extremely low discounts or promise gift cards as an incentive to purchase a product.

--Other sites may offer products at a great price, but the products being sold are not the same as the products advertised. Steer clear of suspicious sites, phishing emails, or ads offering items at unrealistic discounts. You may end up paying for an item, giving away personal information and credit card details, and receive nothing in return except a compromised identity.

"Bottom line, do not open any unsolicited emails and do not click on any links attached," says Christina Garza, public affairs specialist and community outreach coordinator for the FBI's Houston Field Office.

Some offers may pose as holiday promotions or contests. It may even appear one of your friends shared the link with you. Often, these scams lead you to participate in an online survey that is actually designed to steal personal information.

To protect yourself: 

--Secure your banking and credit accounts with strong and different passwords, as well as all your other accounts that contain anything of value, such as: rewards accounts, online accounts that save your payment information, or accounts containing your private, personal information.

--Check your credit card and bank statements regularly to make sure no fraudulent charges have been made to your account.

If you suspect you’ve been victimized:

--Contact your financial institution immediately upon suspecting or discovering a fraudulent transfer.

--Request that your bank reach out to the financial institution where the fraudulent transfer was sent.

--Contact law enforcement.

--File a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.IC3.gov -- regardless of dollar loss, Garza says.

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