The holiday season is generally the time for giving, but scammers can be real Grinches when it comes to the taking.

The FBI wants you to be vigilant during the holidays to avoid scams designed to steal money and personal information. According to a release, the two biggest holiday scams are non-delivery, where a buyer pays for goods or services found online, but the items are never received, and non-payment crimes, which involve goods or services being shipped, but the seller is never paid. 

“Remembering the simple adage ‘If it looks too good to be true, it probably is,’ can go a long way in saving consumers from becoming victims,” FBI Springfield Field Office Special Agent in Charge David Nanz said. “Scammers are eager to take advantage of the increase in online shopping that comes with the holiday season. According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, 649 Central and Southern Illinoisians lost $602,812 in non-payment/non-delivery schemes in 2021. This year as of October, 312 victims have lost $912,417. The bottom line is – do your homework, verify the source, and protect your personal information.”  

Scammers can tailor messages to the holiday season by sending an email containing a link to a great deal. However, clicking the link can download malware to your computer. This can also happen in pop-up ads on social media sites, such as an ad for a free gift card.

According to the release:

Many scams are found in links to quizzes or advertisements for free items. It is always important to check and verify. Visit the company’s website to see if the free items are advertised there as well. Also, consumers can call the company, or the local chamber of commerce to verify the company is legitimate.

Other common scams include investment scams, smartphone app scams, work-from-home scams and gift card and charity scams. Consumer alertness is key to avoid being duped by a scammer.

FBI Springfield

The FBI has the following tips to reduce chances of being victimized:

  • Check your credit card statement routinely.
  • If purchasing merchandise online, ensure it is from a reputable source.
    • Don’t trust a site with your credit card information just because it claims to be secure.
    • Be cognizant of web page addresses that look like familiar sites but are slightly different.
  • Do not respond to unsolicited emails.
  • Avoid filling out forms contained in email messages that ask for personal information.
  • Only open attachments from known senders.
  • Only donate to known and trusted charities.
  • Secure credit card accounts with strong passwords or passphrases.
  • Be cautious of exaggerated claims of possible earnings or profits.
  • Beware when money is required up front for instructions or products for employment.
  • Be cautious when dealing with individuals outside of the country.

If you believe you are a victim of a scam, contact your financial institution immediately. Contact law enforcement and file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center here. You can also call FBI Springfield at (217) 522-9675. For more information on holiday scams, click here.