Online retail makes up a progressively greater proportion of all purchases worldwide. According to statista.com, internet purchases were made by over 2 billion people worldwide in 2020. Coming in at $4.2 trillion in U.S. dollars spent, it should come as no surprise that the digital marketplace is a prime target for schemers and scammers.
This season’s biggest scams
The Federal Bureau of Investigation provides consumers with sound advice on the two most prevalent schemes to keep an eye out for during this holiday shopping season – non-delivery and non-payment scams. Non-delivery scams occur when the consumer purchases a good that is never delivered. Non-payment scams target the seller, who delivers a good but never receives the requisite payment. The Internet Crime Complaint Center estimates that these two scams account for $265 million in costs, topping credit card fraud in their scale.
With scams of this sort on the rise, diligence is required for each online transaction we consider. The FBI provides the following tips to avoid falling victim to online marketplace scammers.
- Don’t click suspicious links on websites, in emails, text messages, or on social media.
- Know who you’re buying from: does the website URL start with https vs http? Has the seller received prior feedback ratings, and do they appear legitimate? Are unusual shipping methods required?
- Watch out for atypical payment requests: does the seller request payment wired or the use of pre-paid gift cards?
- Did it ship? Get tracking numbers and monitor the delivery process.
- Regularly check your credit card statements for accuracy.
If you believe that you have fallen victim to an online shopping scheme, the FBI recommends you immediately contact your credit card company to notify them of the suspicious charges, contact your local police to report the crime, and report the scam to FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.