The FBI has urged people to be careful during online holiday shopping, since they expect an increasing number of scams this year due to alleged merchandise shortages and the pandemic.
The FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center has received over 17,000 complaints about undelivered goods during the holiday season in 2020, worth a total loss of $53 million. This year the number might be even higher, due to alleged scarcity of merchandise and the ongoing pandemic.
According to the Bureau, tactics to bait online shoppers include discounts that seem too good to be true, such as offering hard-to-find items and unrealistic discounts, as well as social media posts that look like they have been shared by someone you know. This can result in money losses, identity theft, and stolen financial information via phishing and web skimming attacks.
On Tuesday the FBI also warned the online shopping public about brand phishing emails that can lead to stolen user credentials, payment details, and other personal information. Of the brands that are used for these phishing emails, almost half appear like Microsoft (45%), followed by DHL (26%), Amazon (11%), BestBuy (4%), and Google (3%), according to a Check Point Software report about April, May and June 2021.
The total number of identity theft reports in 2020 was 1.4 million, twice as much than in 2019, according to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) earlier this year.
The FBI has encouraged constant vigilance and shared tips on how to protect yourself from online shopping scams. These tips include being cautious of sellers who accept only virtual currency, never using public Wi-Fi to buy things, and if a deal sounds too good to be true, chances are it is a scam.