'Tis the season for holiday scams, the U.S. Department of Justice FBI Detroit division advises.
Scams are becoming increasingly aggressive and creative, and according to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center, Michigan ranked 16th in the number of alleged scam victims reported in 2017, with 6,400 consumers claiming a total loss of more than $25 million.
Shoppers can protect themselves by being aware of the following:
•Online shopping scams: If something looks too good to be true, it likely is. Unfamiliar sites offering super huge discounts on brand name merchandise or gift cards may prompt you to give away personal information and receive nothing in return except a compromised identity. Ditto for unsolicited emails offering deep discounts.
•Social media scams: Beware of posts on social media sites that appear to offer vouchers or gift cards, even if the offer appears to be shared by an online friend. Some may pose as holiday promotions or contests to lead to participation in an online survey designed to steal personal information.
•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.
•Charity scams: Fraudulent charity scams, where perpetrators set up false charities and profit from individuals who believe they are making donations to legitimate charitable organizations, are not just for significant events like natural disasters or man-made tragedies. Charity fraud also increases during the holiday season when individuals seek end-of-year tax deductible gifts or are reminded of those less fortunate and wish to contribute to a good cause. Charity scam solicitations may come in the form of cold calls, email campaigns, or crowdfunding platforms—soliciting funds from many people usually over the internet or fake social media accounts and websites, doing anything to make it easy for you to give and feel like you're making a difference. Only donate to charities you know and trust.