This year, more than in past years, many of us are relying on the convenience of online shopping. However, online sellers are not created equal and thousands of us become victims of holiday scams.
According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), the most common scams during the season are non-delivery and non-payment crimes.
A non-delivery scam is when the buyer pays for goods that are never received. And in a non-payment scam, the seller ships the product but is never paid.
These simple tips from the IC3 can help you look out for scammers during the holiday season or any other time of year:
1. Always get a tracking number for items purchased online so you can make sure they have been shipped and can follow the delivery process.
2. 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.
3. Avoid sellers who post an auction or advertisement under one name but ask that payment be sent to someone else.
4. Consider canceling your purchase if a seller requests funds to be paid via a money transfer, pre-paid card, bank-to-bank wire transfer, or gift card. Money sent in these ways is virtually impossible to recover, with no recourse for the victim. Always remember that anyone who asks you to use one of these forms of payment might be a scammer. A credit card is generally the safest way to pay for an online purchase.
5. Avoid sellers who act as authorized dealers or factory representatives of popular items in countries where there would be no such dealers.
6. 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.
7. Avoid buyers who request their purchase be shipped using a certain method to avoid customs or taxes inside another country.
8. Be suspect of any credit card purchases where the address of the cardholder does not match the shipping address. Always receive the cardholder’s authorization before shipping any products.
9. Always be wary of deals that seem too good to be true.
If you believe you are the victim of an online scam, please report to your local law enforcement, credit card company/banking institution, and FBI’s IC3.