Holiday scam season: How to keep from becoming a virtual victim


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The Federal Bureau of Investigations Norfolk Field Office wants holiday shoppers to beware of online scams this season.

During the 2020 holiday shopping season, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received more than 17,000 complaints regarding the non-delivery of goods, resulting in losses more than $53 million.

They believe that number could be even higher this holiday season due to rumors of merchandise shortages and the ongoing pandemic.

10 On Your Side caught up with the FBI to figure out how you, and your money, can stay safe.

“If you’re online searching for that perfect gift, that one thing that your child asked for, and you can’t find it anywhere and then suddenly you find it on this website that you’ve never ever heard of … I would caution you against that,” said Cassandra Temple with the FBI Norfolk Field Office.

The FBI says criminals draw in their virtual victims in different ways.

  • E-mails advertising hot-ticket or hard to find items, such as event tickets or gaming systems.
  • Untrusted websites and ads promoting unrealistic discounts and bargains.
  • Social media posts, often appearing to have been shared by a known friend, offering vouchers, gift cards, freebies, and contests.
  • Social media hosted advertisements for non-existent or counterfeit items.
  • Online surveys designed to steal personal information.

The FCC says spam calls are on the rise in some parts of the country.

Scammers try to dupe unsuspecting people into revealing personal information, such as a social security number, address, or password.

From phone scams to mail scams, online criminals are looking to find their way into your personal information, but there are ways to protect yourself.

“Change your passwords frequently, make them difficult,” suggested Temple .”Don’t give the same password for each account. Definitely change your password, don’t do them all the same. Check your credit card statements routinely.”

Temple also tells 10 On Your Side that it’s not uncommon for victims to unknowingly be taken advantage of. Often, they won’t notice until months later. If you find out that you are a victim of an online scam, there are steps you should take.

“I would say don’t be embarrassed at all and come forward, report it. We might be able to help you put in your complaint and that will help track it.”

Were you scammed or almost scammed? Report it to the FBI here:

The FBI has these recommendations to keep from becoming a victim:

  • Verify websites prior to making a purchase. Only purchase items from official, encryption-using websites. Web addresses should begin with https:// and include a locked padlock icon.
  • Be wary of online retailers who use a free email service instead of a company email address.
  • Do not judge a company by their website; flashy websites can be set up and taken down quickly.
  • Pay for items using a credit card dedicated for online purchases, checking the card statement frequently, and never saving payment information in online accounts.
  • Be wary of sellers who accept only wire transfers, virtual currency, gift cards, or cash, as these are almost impossible to recover.
  • Never make purchases using public Wi-Fi.
  • Verify the legitimacy of a seller before you purchase, take steps such as looking at consumer reviews and checking with the Better Business Bureau.
  • Beware of sellers posting under one name but requesting funds to be sent to another individual, or any seller claiming to be inside the country but requesting funds to be sent to another country.
  • Only purchase gift cards directly from a trusted merchant.
  • Do not click on links or provide personal or financial information to an unsolicited email.
  • Make sure anti-virus/malware software is up to date and block pop-up windows.
  • Use safe passwords or pass phrases. Never use the same password on multiple accounts.
  • As always – if the deal sounds too good to be true, chances are it is a scam.

Test your online safety knowledge here.

Stay with for more local news updates.

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