Beware, holiday shoppers: The FBI has dropped a yuletide bombshell warning that scam artists are waiting in the virtual wings to pilfer your cheer—and your cash. In a season when generosity and joy should take the spotlight, it's a real Grinch move that San Diegans lost a whopping $320,000 last holiday season to such nefarious deeds, according to a recent FBI San Diego announcement.
The feds are sounding the alarm over increasingly slick online shopping scams that promise brand-name goods at basement prices that are sure to lure in bargain hunters. Phishing e-mails and faux advertisements may dangle the carrot of impossible deals, or perhaps the bait of gift cards as a bonus. Add to that the mix of online marketplaces and their deceptive goods that arrive courtesy of someone else's stolen credit card, and you've got a recipe for a ruined holiday. As the FBI points out, the hustle doesn't stop there—advanced fee schemes ask for a deposit on items like vacations or home gym gear that never materialize.
As reported by the FBI San Diego, social media, once a place for friends and family to share festive selfies, has become a Wild West of scams. People must tread carefully around those posts that tout vouchers or gift cards as part of holiday promos or contests—often these are just digital traps to harvest personal details. Ticket scalpers have also gone high-tech, using photos of event tickets shared online to forge duplicate barcodes and resell them to some unsuspecting, joyful concertgoers.
Charity should come from the heart, but around the holidays, it seems swindlers have hearts of coal. FBI San Diego cautions that fake charities are especially rampant during the end-of-year giving season, exploiting those who want to help the less fortunate. These scammers have no qualms about pocketing all contributions meant for those in need, operating through cold calls, mass emails, crowdfunding pleas, and bogus social media accounts. To navigate through this charitable minefield, the FBI suggests verifying any charity through multiple sources, donating only to reputable organizations, and being wary of those oh-too-similar-sounding copycat names.
The FBI has thrown down the gauntlet in this cat-and-mouse game, offering practical tips to avoid becoming the next casualty of holiday heists. Consumers should play defense with credit cards, shop only at well-known retailers, and employ updated home security measures to keep their financial data out of the hands of digital pirates. If a scam still manages to slip through the chimney, the FBI urges hitting up local law enforcement, pressing banks into action, and filing a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.IC3.gov posthaste.