(MoneyWatch) The FBI has a lot on its plate these days -- everything from interstate crime to terrorism watch to video piracy. Even so, they've taken a moment this week to remind you about the risks inherent in the holiday shopping season.
In a news bulletin released just before Black Friday, the FBI advises consumers that scammers will be on high alert for the next few weeks, using a variety of techniques to defraud you of your money. These approaches include fraudulent online auctions, reshipping merchandise purchased with stolen credit cards, and old-fashioned phishing.
Specifically, here are some things to be wary of this season:
Fraudulent sales and auctions. The most important advice is not to give your credit card information to anyone in conjunction with an online sale; don't trust the seller unless you can use a legitimate payment service to protect your purchase and your credit card.
Gift card scams. Purchase gift cards directly from retailers -- don't buy them secondhand through auctions or private sales. If the cards are fraudulent, the merchant will deactivate the cards and they won't be honored.
Phishing. Be especially careful with email at this time of year; your bank and other financial institutions should never ask you for personal information or passwords in email, and you should never click links in email to go to websites; enter the URL in the address bar manually to be sure you're not redirected to a fraudulent site.
Here are some of the top tips offered by the FBI to help you protect yourself this holiday season:
- Don't respond to unsolicited mail.
- Never click on links within unsolicited mail -- navigate there yourself by typing the address or using your saved favorite.
- Don't fill out forms in email that request personal information regardless of the source.
- If you receive email from a business, contact the business to ensure the email is genuine.
- Requests to react quickly or urgently are typically scams.