FBI warns consumers against online shopping scams this holiday season

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EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — ‘Twas the holiday season, and all through the Borderland, El Pasoans quickly clicked online to get their gifts in hand. But while they shopped, selecting each gift with thought and time, holiday scammers awaited to commit internet crime. 

The FBI El Paso Division wants the community to be aware of an increase in internet crimes as people begin to online shop for the holidays. 

“With COVID-19,” said Jeanette Harper, Special Agent at the FBI El Paso Division, “we’re going to see more people than ever shopping online. And with that, we’re going to see more potential victims.” 

Last year, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center reported more than $196 million in losses from non-payment and non-delivery scams. Credit card fraud contributed an additional $100 million in consumer losses.

Harper warned that many scams are targeting users on social media. Shoppers will purchase an item from an ad perceived to be legitimate, but is actually from non-existent or counterfeit vendors. 

“After you make your purchase, always track your order through the original confirmation email that was sent,” said Harper. “Refrain from clicking on any links from subsequent emails.”

The FBI advises consumers to shop from known and trusted vendors. If you’re unfamiliar with an individual seller or vendor, look up product and company reviews online.

Other precautions people can take is to verify the URL to ensure the site is secure.

A site should have “https” in its website.

Scams claiming discounts or availability of hot ticket items are also targeting vulnerable shoppers who are eager to land highly sought-after gifts, like the PS5 that is out of stock almost everywhere.

Fraudulent ads for gaming systems like the PS5 or XBOX can be found on places like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. Posts will advertise the hot ticket items for an inflated price and will often ask the buyer to use a peer-to-peer payment app like Venmo, Zelle or CashApp to make the transaction.

“They’re a quick way to send money, but it’s very hard for people to get their money back,” said Harper. “So you should never send money to someone you don’t know on the other end of that peer-to-peer payment plan.”

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