February 23, 2024 3:19 pm

FBI Los Angeles Issues Warning About Holiday Scams

This festive season, FBI Los Angeles is cautioning shoppers to be on the lookout for scams that aim to pilfer both your money and personal information. In the 2022 holiday shopping season alone, the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) recorded nearly 12,000 victims, resulting in losses exceeding $73 million. According to the IC3, California residents topped the nation in losses, surpassing $2 billion across various scams.

Don Alway, assistant director in charge of the FBI Los Angeles Field Office, advises, “While you’re busy searching for holiday deals, scammers are on the prowl for unsuspecting victims. Be vigilant and protect your information. Don’t let scam artists dampen your holiday spirit by stealing your personal data and hard-earned money.”

Scams often involve tempting deals presented through phishing emails or advertisements. These may include offers for brand-name products at unbelievably low prices or enticing gift card incentives. Some sites may advertise attractive prices for products that turn out to be different from what was promised. Victims end up paying, divulging personal information and credit card details, only to receive nothing in return except a compromised or stolen identity. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is!

Sellers are also cautioned to be wary of buyers requesting items to be shipped before payment, especially if they use different names for communication and payment. Buyers who overpay for an item and want the excess sent to a third party could be part of a larger fraud scheme.

Common Scams

Online Shopping Scams

  • Scammers often lure victims with seemingly irresistible deals via phishing emails, texts, or ads. These schemes may promise brand-name goods at unrealistically low prices or offer gift cards as incentives. Some sites may advertise products at great prices, but the delivered items don’t match the advertised ones.
  • Consumers are advised to avoid untrustworthy sites or ads offering items at unrealistic discounts or with special coupons. Victims may end up paying for items, divulging personal information and credit card details, only to receive nothing in return except a compromised or stolen identity.
  • Secondary markets for airline miles, gift cards, rewards credits, and similar products inadvertently increase the demand for stolen information, boosting its value.

Social Media Shopping Scams (most victims reported):

  • Consumers should be cautious of social media posts offering vouchers or gift cards, appearing as holiday promotions or contests. Some may even appear to come from known friends sharing the link. These scams often lead consumers to participate in online surveys designed to steal personal information.
  • Before providing credit card or personal information, do thorough research on the legitimacy of a website if you click an ad through a social media platform.

Work-From-Home Scams

Consumers should be wary of sites and posts offering work-from-home opportunities. While these opportunities emphasize convenience, they may have fraudulent intentions. Carefully research job postings and the individuals or companies offering employment.

Gift Card Scams

  • During the holiday season, consumers should be cautious if someone asks them to purchase gift cards for them. Victims may receive a spoofed email, phone call, or text from a person in authority requesting the purchase of multiple gift cards for personal or business reasons.
  • For instance, a victim might receive a request to purchase gift cards for a work-related function or as a present for a special occasion. The gift cards are then used to facilitate the purchase of goods and services, which may or may not be legitimate.

Charity Scams

  • Fraudulent charity scams involve setting up false charities to profit from individuals who believe they are making donations to legitimate organizations. Charity fraud tends to rise during the holiday season, when people seek to make tax-deductible gifts or contribute to a good cause.
  • Charity scam solicitations may come through cold calls, email campaigns, crowdfunding platforms, or fake social media accounts and websites. They are designed to make it easy for victims to give money, believing they’re making a difference. Perpetrators may divert some or all of the funds for personal use, and those in need may never receive the donations.

Steps to Avoid Holiday Fraud Schemes:

  • Before shopping online, secure all financial accounts with strong passphrases. Use different passphrases for each financial account.
  • Never give personal information—such as your date of birth, home address, Social Security number, or bank account and credit card numbers—to anyone you do not know. Be highly suspicious of social media promotions and giveaways that require personal information.
  • Be cautious of online transactions that solely require wire transfers, virtual currency, or gift cards.
  • Pay for items using a credit card dedicated to online purchases. Regularly check the card statement and never save payment information in online accounts. Avoid using public Wi-Fi, especially when submitting credit card or payment information online.
  • Before donating to any charity, verify they have a valid Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) by visiting their website or calling the charity directly.
  • Report fraud: If you suspect you’ve been victimized, contact your financial institution immediately, then call your local law enforcement agency. Victims of online holiday scams are encouraged to file a complaint with the FBI at www.ic3.gov.