Online Shopping Scams To Watch Out For
The holiday season is the time people search for the best deal. Whether looking for electronics, toys, or clothes, discounts can be found everywhere. Unfortunately, it’s also the time that kicks off the season of online shopping scams.
Here are four scams to watch out for this Black Friday and throughout the holiday shopping season:
Amazon Service Fraud Scam
In this ruse, a scammer posing as an Amazon representative will call a target to notify them about an alleged problem with their Prime account. The victim is prompted to download a tool, also called malware, on their computer or mobile device. That “tool” will give the scammer remote access to “help them resolve the problem” at hand.
If they comply, the victim will be vulnerable to the hacker and any information stored on that device.
The scammer may instruct the target to log onto their banking account, supposedly so the scammer can compensate the target for their time. Unfortunately, doing this will give the scammer direct access to the victim’s accounts.
Phishing emails are nothing new, but they can be difficult to spot among promotional emails flooding inboxes during this time of year.
Here are two common variations of phishing scams:
The victim receives an email appearing to be from a retailer they shop at frequently. It informs them that someone has tried to hack into their account.
The scammer asks the target to verify their account or update their account details through an embedded link. Doing so, however, will give a scammer access to their account. The scammer can rack up a considerable bill and leave the victim to pick up the tab.
The victim receives an email asking them to confirm an order made through Amazon or another large e-tailer. The target needs to verify the order details through an embedded link.
Unfortunately, clicking on the link will give their personal information directly to the scammers.
Delivery scams generally take the form of a message appearing to be from USPS, FedEx, or another delivery service, informing the victim of a “delivery issue” with an order. The scammers ask to confirm or update their information with the provided link.
Doing so will give the scammer access to the target’s financial information and open the door to identity theft and more.
In another variation of a delivery scam, the scammers ask the target to pay a fee for covering a customs charge or tax. Of course, these fees are invented by the scammer, who will gladly pocket the money.
Suppose you’ve been targeted by a scam pretending to be the United States Postal Service. In that case, there’s an entire organization dedicated to stopping and protecting Americans from these crimes called the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS). Report mail fraud, identity theft, mail theft, and cybercrime to USPIS at uspis.gov/report.
Fake Gift Scam
Another scam whose prevalence has spiked with the increase in online shopping is the fake gift scam, which involves a purchase that never arrives.
The victim, likely lured in by an ad promising a super-low price on a desired item, rushed to complete the purchase without researching the seller. This scam is widespread on social media sites and website ads.
Unfortunately, the seller then disappears, and nothing arrives. If there’s still a website up for the product, there’s no way to contact someone to get a refund.
In this case, someone is impersonating a business and should be reported to the Federal Trade Commission at reportfraud.ftc.gov.
How to Avoid Online Shopping Scams
Follow these tips to keep your shopping free of scams:
- Don’t open links in emails sent from unverified contacts.
- Never allow a stranger access to your device and accounts.
- Don’t share sensitive information on the phone or online with an unknown contact.
- If contacted by an alleged representative of Amazon or another large company about an issue with your account, hang up and check your account to see if a problem is actually present.
- Always keep the privacy and spam settings on your computer and mobile devices at their strongest settings.
- If you have an issue with an ordered item, contact the retailer directly through their site and not through a pop-up ad appearing to represent them. Likewise, it’s a good idea not to click through to “support links” that are posted on troubleshooting forums, as they may not be to legitimate service sites.
- Only purchase items from reputable sellers. When shopping on a new site, look for a physical address, a customer service number, and copy free of spelling errors and typos.