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FBI issues warning about 4 holiday scams

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The FBI issued a warning on Friday about holiday scams.

Investigators say criminals are becoming increasingly aggressive and creative when it comes to stealing money and personal information.

Florida again ranked second in the number of alleged scam victims reported in 2015, with 20,306 consumers claiming a total loss of over $94.5 million, according to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center.

This year, the FBI Jacksonville Division wants local shoppers to be extra vigilant of the following schemes and red flags.

Online Shopping Scams

If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. Steer clear of unfamiliar sites offering unrealistic discounts on brand name merchandise, or gift cards as an incentive to purchase a product, as you may end up paying for an item, giving away personal information, and receive nothing in return except a compromised identity. In addition, do not open any unsolicited e-mails or click on the links provided. Before shopping online, secure all bank and credit accounts with strong and different passwords. The same should be done for airline and rewards accounts, because the emergence of these offerings has led to an increase in the demand for, and resale value of, stolen information.

Social Media Scams

Beware of posts on social media sites that appear to offer vouchers or gift cards, even if it appears the offer was shared by an online friend. Some may pose as holiday promotions or contests that lead to participation in an online survey designed to steal personal information. In addition, do not post photos of event tickets on social media sites as fraudsters can use the barcode to recreate tickets for resale.

Smartphone App Scams

Some apps, often disguised as games and offered for free, may be designed to steal personal information from your device. Before downloading an app from an unknown source, look for third-party reviews, and be mindful that alternative app marketplaces can potentially include stolen content and compromised versions of otherwise trustworthy applications.

Work-From-Home Scams

Beware of postings offering work that can be done from the comfort of home, as these opportunities may have unscrupulous motivations behind them. Take caution when money is required up front for instructions or products, or when a job post claims “no experience necessary.” Carefully research individuals or companies before providing them with personal information, and never provide personal information when first interacting with a potential employer.

Additional steps to avoid becoming a victim of fraud:

  • Check bank and credit card statements routinely, including immediately after making an online purchase and weeks following the holiday season.
  • Only purchase merchandise from a reputable source.
  • Don't trust a website to be secure just because it claims to be.
  • Do not respond to spam emails or click on links contained within them.
  • Avoid filling out forms contained in emails that ask for personal information.
  • Be cautious of all email attachments and scan them for viruses before opening.
  • Verify requests for personal information from businesses or financial institutions by contacting them using the main contact information on their official website.
  • Be cautious when dealing with individuals outside of your own country.

How to report fraud

Consumers who suspect they’ve been victimized, should immediately contact their financial institution, then law enforcement. They are also encouraged to file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center regardless of dollar amount lost, and provide all relevant information regarding the complaint.

Additional Resources

For more information on common fraud scams, visit this site. To find additional scam statistics from Florida and the U.S., review the 2015 IC3 Internet Crime Report here.