Holiday shopping can be stressful. There's a lot on our minds between deciding on the right gift and finding it online or in the store. On top of it all, supply chain issues and material shortages might make it even harder to find the gifts you're looking for this year. All of this can cause you to make hasty decisions, which scammers are counting on to get access to your personal and financial information.
With Black Friday and Cyber Monday right around the corner, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office wants to remind residents that scammers are very active during the holiday season. So, as always, here are some reminders and tips to help you make smart shopping decisions.
While most of us shop on established websites, product shortages may force us to look for alternatives, such as buying gifts from online marketplaces, through social media accounts, or online ads. When purchasing a product online, always ensure the website you're using is secure by checking for the lock next to the URL. Also, beware of too good to be true deals that offer significant savings, quick delivery, or free products. Scammers keep track of headlines and trends to "sell" popular items they never plan on delivering.
Before clicking the Buy Now button, do your research and read reviews. Then, search online for the name of the website or product plus the word "complaint" or "scam." The Better Business Bureau is another excellent resource to learn about scams related to fake websites or products.
Always pay by credit card online! Using a credit card for an online purchase gives you more rights to dispute a charge if something goes wrong and protects you financially. However, be very cautious if a website asks you to pay with a gift card, pre-paid debit card, mailing cash, wire transfer, or even cryptocurrency. Scammers use payment methods that are difficult to trace and dispute, making it unlikely that you'll get your money back.
Common Holiday Scams
Scammers will also take advantage if we're not paying attention. Through phishing scams, which increase during the holidays, scammers will send fake delivery texts or fake email order confirmations to get you to click on a link and provide bank login or account information. Never click on links from unknown phone numbers or email addresses.
If you're planning on getting a furry friend for the holiday season, do your research! As the holidays approach, websites claiming to sell specific types of pets will appear. Start your search with your local rescue or animal shelter. There are lots of great pets in need of homes. If you decide to use an online seller, check the photos. Are they stock photos from other sites? A quick reverse image search can help you find that out. Finally, schedule an in-person visit. Legitimate sellers and breeders will encourage this.
Always save copies of order confirmations and receipts. Keep them until you receive your product. If you're not going to be home to get your holiday packages, have them sent to your post office or use ship to store to prevent them from being stolen.
If you fall for a scam, let your financial institution know as soon as possible and place a fraud alert on your account to prevent further damage. Planning and being aware may be a lot of work, but it will leave you better prepared and give you peace of mind during this hectic season.
Spot a scam while holiday shopping? Share it with the Federal Trade Commission at reportfraud.ftc.gov.