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FBI warns of major online scams ahead of the holiday season

FBI Norfolk says scammers are taking advantage of the fact that more people will shop for gifts online due to the coronavirus pandemic.

NORFOLK, Va. — The holiday season is upon us.

As people get ready to find gifts for their loved ones, experts say more shoppers will shop for gifts online this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

FBI Norfolk is warning people about the increased risk of being scammed.

Christina Pullen, the public affairs officer with FBI Norfolk, said scammers are taking advantage of the fact that more people will shop online.

“Criminals don’t take the holidays off,” said Pullen. “As more people are shopping online than ever, they’re gearing up for a busy holiday season themselves.”

With online sales surging on websites like Amazon, scammers are banking on a new trick. There are emails going around claiming to be from Amazon and asking people to update their payment information. The fake emails show the Amazon logo and mention a recent order. It prompts you to click on a link to update your payment information. A closer look at the email’s return address revealed it wasn’t a genuine email from a verified Amazon address.

It’s an attempt at a scam.

Amazon’s website says genuine emails from them will always have an address ending in @amazon.com, and Amazon will never solicit a payment or your card information via email.

“These scams are evolving,” said Pullen. “It’s the same take on an old scam. What we recommend is whenever you’re shopping online and get some sort of unsolicited email or text like that, double-check it, do your research. Do not reply to the email or text, do not click on any links. Get out of that program and then go into the actual Amazon website and take it from there.”

If you’re shopping for gifts online, Pullen says you should do these three things:

  1. Shop securely: Make sure that you’re shopping on secure and reputable websites. If it’s a site you’re unfamiliar with, do your research. 
  2. Be careful with how you pay: Credit card is probably the best and safest way to make purchases online. Avoid any website that is demanding payment by gift card, wire transfer, other options like Bitcoin.
  3. Be realistic: If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. Avoid unrealistic discounts or prices, particularly on popular items that are hard to get.

If you suspect you've been victimized:

  • Contact your financial institution as soon as you spot a fraudulent transfer
  • Ask your bank to reach out to the financial institution where the fraudulent transfer was sent.
  • Contact the FBI or local law enforcement.

If someone attempts to scam you or you’re a victim of a scam, you should file a complaint with the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.