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Beware of Holiday Season Scams

As the holiday season approaches, the FBI San Francisco division urges shoppers to be aware of emerging scam trends and to remain vigilant when buying items online. The FBI expects more fraud schemes this year that aim to steal consumers’ money and personal information. According to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), nearly 12,000 victims reported losses of over $73 million during the 2022 holiday shopping season.


Santa mailbox letters direct to the North Pole

As the holiday season approaches, many people are looking for deals and discounts online. However, online shopping also comes with risks of falling victim to fraudsters who take advantage of the increased demand. In this blog post, we will discuss two common types of online fraud that you should be aware of: non-delivery and non-payment scams.

 

Non-delivery scams occur when a buyer pays for an item or a service online, but never receives it. The seller may use fake websites, fake reviews, or fake tracking information to lure the buyer into paying. The buyer may not realize that they have been scammed until it is too late to get a refund or file a dispute.


Made in Santa’s work shop brown paper package with red string

Non-payment scams happen when a seller ships an item or provides a service online, but never gets paid. The buyer may use stolen credit cards, fake checks, or fake payment platforms to trick the seller into sending the goods or services. The seller may not find out that they have been scammed until they receive a chargeback or a bounced check.

 

According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center, non-delivery and non-payment scams are among the most reported types of online fraud in the U.S. From January 2023 to October 15, 2023, IC3 received over 40,000 complaints related to these scams, with losses of approximately $250 million. In comparison, in 2022, IC3 received 51,679 complaints with losses of $281 million.

 

In the Northern District of California, which covers 15 counties under the jurisdiction of the FBI's San Francisco field office, 196 complaints related to non-delivery and non-payment scams were reported during November and December 2020. Consumers in this area reported over $1 million in losses during the 2022 holiday season. Contra Costa County had the highest dollar amount losses while Alameda County received the highest number of complaints by victims of this scam.

 

To avoid becoming a victim of non-delivery and non-payment scams, here are some tips that you can follow:

 

  • Do your research before buying or selling online. Check the reputation and reviews of the website, the seller, or the buyer. Look for contact information and customer service policies. Beware of websites that use domain names similar to well-known brands or companies.

  • Use secure and traceable payment methods. Avoid paying with cash, wire transfers, gift cards, or cryptocurrencies. These payment methods are difficult to recover or trace once sent. Use credit cards, debit cards, or reputable online payment platforms that offer protection and dispute resolution.

  • Keep records of your transactions. Save receipts, invoices, confirmation emails, tracking numbers, and any other communication with the seller or the buyer. If you encounter a problem, contact the seller or the buyer first and try to resolve it amicably. If that fails, contact your bank or payment platform and report the fraud.

  • Report any suspicious activity or fraud to IC3 at www.ic3.gov. Your report can help law enforcement agencies investigate and prosecute online fraudsters.

 

Online shopping can be convenient and fun, but it also requires caution and vigilance. By following these tips, you can protect yourself from non-delivery and non-payment scams and enjoy a safe and happy holiday season—with best wishes from Webcheck Security!

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