The website ranked West Virginia as the 49th most at-risk state, losing “$4 million to fraudsters last year, when a record $4.2 billion was stolen nationally. “
The study used data from the FTC and the FBI’s IC3 through 2020.
Common scams include: Fake websites, Instagram giveaways, and Secret Santa.
As online shopping is the most common scam reported to the FTC in West Virginia relating to the pandemic, there has been a surge in this type of scam.
Here are a few tips for how to avoid getting scammed over the coming holiday season.
1. MISSING PACKAGE SCAM: Capitalizing on inevitable supply chain delays, scammers pretend to be FedEx and send an email with a link to track your package. When clicked on, these malicious links steal your personal and financial information. They also may text, leave voicemails, or place a “missed delivery” tag on your front door.
How to Avoid: Never click a link or call back a number from an unexpected delivery notice. Always contact the company directly using a verified number or website.
2. SOCIAL MEDIA SECRET SANTA: A pyramid scheme called “Secret Sister” is circulating on Facebook. Scammers recruit “sisters” with the promise that if they buy a $10 gift for another member, they will receive 36 gifts in return. A version of this scam includes exchanging bottles of wine.
How to Avoid: Do not respond to communication from “Secret Sister” or do an exchange “for the good of the sisterhood.”
3. FAKE RETAILERS AND WEBSITES: Look out for fake websites that advertise enormous sales on popular gift ideas that are out of stock everywhere else due to supply chain issues. Fake sites have a domain name with an extraneous letter or number, grammatical errors, and limited contact information.
How to Avoid: Research the company and read customer reviews before purchasing. Google their name with the word “scam” to see if anything comes up.
4. HOLIDAY CHARITY GIFT SCAM: In addition to traditional gifting, people may donate to charity on someone’s behalf. This increased during COVID-19 and ramps up every year during the season of giving. Scammers pose as a fake charity to solicit fraudulent donations. Often, they pick a name that sounds close to a well-known charity.
5. FAKE INSTAGRAM GIVEAWAYS: Around the holidays, brands and influencers offer free product giveaways. Scammers are using a technique called “like-farming,” where they ask you to like or comment on their post for a chance to win a holiday prize. They include malicious links and steal your personal information.
How to Avoid: Look for the blue checkmark which social media platforms use to verify a real page from copycats. Watch for typos and accounts with limited content.