Scammers Have Their Sights on Unsuspecting Black Friday and Cyber Monday Holiday Shoppers
Scammers are very aware that this time of year is full of impulse buys and the search for hard-to-find hot items
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are almost here, which probably means you've got a few deals scoped out on the hot new stuff you want to buy. Scammers are scoping things out, too, and have a number of schemes ready to take advantage of unsuspecting shoppers. Before you turn over your personal and financial information to a scammer during the holiday shopping season, check out how scammers target you.
Fake websites are out there all the time, but this time of the year is so popular with online shopping that you may see many more impostor sites turn up than usual. These sites want to get your payment information, either to run with your money or to ship you a shoddy or fake product. They lure you in with prices that are too good to be true. So if you see a price that looks too good, alarm bells should be going up. Make sure that the website is spelled correctly with the correct spelling of the business name and proper contact information. You can always call the company directly using a known phone number to verify the deal.
You may think that downloading an app is worry-free, but it's not. Sometimes you can find fake apps on popular app stores through a search. But you may also download a fake app through a text message link or a link on a fake website. If something looks wrong with the app, don't download it. Download an app from a known trusted source.
Hidden Details and fine print
Have you ever heard that the devil is in the details? Well, it's true! While you should be checking out the details of any item or service you want to purchase, you'll also want to watch for hidden details scammers throw into the mix. If you are visiting an impostor site or even an unscrupulous seller's site, there might be language advertising that you are agreeing to sign up for recurring charges, recurring shipping, etc. You might even be purchasing a refurbished item or an item with a reduced warranty or no warranty at all.
In any case, keep in mind that any specials being offered, whether by big department stores or small deceptive sellers, might have strict limitations. You might need to show up with a special coupon. The deal might be in-store only. There might be exclusions for the name brands that most people want. Also keep in mind that any store-wide sale or coupon usually has limitations and exclusions, defeating the name.
Desperate for Hard-to-find items
Scammers know that sometimes you just have to have that hot item and that you'll do anything to get it. If major retailers are completely out of stock but you find someone who is promising you a good deal on it, you might be dealing with a scammer trying to take your money. These types of scams usually come from email.
There's an issue with delivery
It's common at this time of year to get a notice about a missed delivery or a problem with a delivery. If you get a phone call, text message or email stating that there is a delivery problem, be very cautious. It's easier to spot this scam if you're not expecting something, but you can still fall victim. If you're expecting something and receive one of these alerts, check directly with the merchant to see if there's a problem. When you miss a delivery, you will typically get a note left on the door. If there's a problem with a delivery, the merchant will usually contact you directly.
Gift Card Headaches
Scammers used to love wire transfers for stealing your money since those transactions were virtually impossible to trace or refund. But scammers have transitioned to gift cards since they work just like cash and you can find them on nearly any corner and can order them online. If you are asked to pay with a gift card and aren't allowed to use a credit card, you're dealing with a scammer trying to take your money.
But it doesn't stop there. Scammers won't hesitate to sell you a gift card at a significant discount in order to take your money. Whether you actually get a gift card is up to the scammer. But if you do get one, you'll find that it has no value whatsoever, being counterfeit, unactivated, or expired. You might even buy a legitimate gift card that has had the PIN scratched off. Scammers will wait for you to add money to the card and then use the information to drain it.
Download this Attachment to save
You shouldn't be downloading unknown email attachments or opening unknown links, even if the sender promises or even pinky swears that it's perfectly fine. It's very easy to make an email look like it's coming from one source when it's coming from a completely different place. And even if it is coming from the right email address, you don't know who sent it. Was it really your mother who sent the email, or a scammer who hacked her email account? Don't download any unknown attachments or click any links unless you know for certain who sent it. This applies even if you have antivirus software installed on your computer, which might not yet know about a new virus or piece of malware. Once you click an unsafe attachment or unsafe link, you are exposed. Retailers will almost never send attachments with emails.
Secret Sister Pyramid Schemes
Have you received a chain email, social media message, or similar promising you money or gifts in exchange for sending something to someone you don't know? Secret Sister is a pyramid scheme that is built upon the popular Secret Santa office gift exchange and usually focuses on wine, but could be for anything. All you have to do to claim your gifts or money, or so the scammers claim, is send a small bottle of wine (or other gift) to someone you don't know and provide the personal information of some friends (or share the post with friends). You won't reap rewards for your kindness. It's more likely that you'll find yourself a victim of identity theft.
These types of exchanges are a form of illegal gambling and participants, including you, can fail charges for mail fraud.
Fake classified Ads
When meeting someone from a classified ad, always meet in a public location in order to make the exchange and to test any items. If an item needs to be shipped from a classified ad, look elsewhere.
REPORT ALL SUSPECTED SCAMS
If you are or suspect that you are the victim of a scam or some other illegal practice, you should file a complaint. Doing so can help protect your rights and protect others from becoming victims. If you suspect you are dealing with a scamming, you should first stop all contact to minimize that chances of further losses. Don't respond to scammers via phone, text message, email or postal mail.
In North Carolina, you can report scams and other illegal practices to the North Carolina Attorney General's Office. If you live outside North Carolina, report it to your state Attorney General. You can also submit a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), which is co-sponsored by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C).