Back to Back Issues Page
Watch For Scams Newsletter. Shopping Scams
November 23, 2010

Shopping Scams

Watch For Scams is dedicated to helping you avoid becoming a victim of fraud.

If you like this ezine, do a friend a big favor and forward this to them. If a friend forwarded this to you, and if you like what you read, please subscribe by visiting the link below:

Subscribe Here

Shopping Scams

With Christmas coming, it is a timely opportunity to remember some of the more common shopping scams.

Fraudulent Classified Ads and Auction Sales

Internet criminals post classified ads and auctions for products they do not have, and make the scam work by using stolen credit cards. Scammers receive an order from a victim, charge the victim's credit card for the amount of the order, then use a separate, stolen credit card for the actual purchase.

They pocket the purchase price obtained from the victim's credit card and have the merchant ship the item directly to the victim.

Consequently, an item purchased from an online auction but received directly from the merchant is a strong indication of fraud. Victims of such a scam not only lose the money paid to the scammer, but may be liable for receiving stolen goods.

So when shopping, avoid these scams by using caution and not providing financial information directly to the seller, as fraudulent sellers will use this information to purchase items for their schemes. Always use a legitimate payment service to ensure a safe, legitimate purchase.

As for product delivery, scammers posing as legitimate delivery services offer reduced or free shipping to customers through auction sites. They perpetuate this scam by providing fake shipping labels to the victim.

The scammers do not pay for delivery of the packages; therefore, delivery service providers intercept the packages for nonpayment and the victim loses the money paid for the purchase of the product.

It is important to check each seller's rating and feedback along with their number of sales and the dates on which feedback was posted. Be wary of a seller with 100% positive feedback, with a low total number of feedback postings, or with all feedback posted around the same date and time.

Gift Card Scam

Be careful when purchasing gift cards through auction sites or classified ads. It is safest to purchase gift cards directly from the merchant or retail store. If the gift card merchant discovers that your card is fraudulent, the merchant will deactivate the gift card and refuse to honor it for purchases. Victims of this scam lose the money paid for the gift card purchase.

Phishing and Smishing Schemes

In phishing schemes, a scammer poses as a legitimate entity and uses emails and scam web sites to obtain your personal information, such as account numbers, user names, passwords, etc. Smishing is the act of sending fraudulent text messages to bait a victim into revealing personal information.

Be wary of emails or text messages that indicate a problem or question regarding your financial accounts. In this scam, the scammers direct you to follow a link or call a number to update an account or correct a supposed problem. The link directs you to a fraudulent web site or message that appears legitimate. Instead, the site allows the scammer to steal any personal information you provide.

Current smishing schemes involve scammers calling your cell phone offering to lower the interest rates for credit cards you do not even possess. If you say that you do not own the credit card, the caller hangs up. These scammers call from TRAC cell phones that do not have voicemail, or the phone provides a constant busy signal when called, rendering these calls virtually untraceable.

Phishing schemes related to deliveries are also common. Legitimate delivery service providers neither email shippers regarding scheduled deliveries nor state when a package is intercepted or being temporarily held. Consequently, emails informing of such delivery issues are phishing scams that can lead to personal information breaches and financial losses.


Here are some tips you can use to avoid becoming a victim of cyber fraud:

Do not respond to unsolicited (spam) email

Do not click on links contained within an unsolicited email

Be cautious of email claiming to contain pictures in attached files, as the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders. Scan the attachments for viruses if possible

Avoid filling out forms contained in email messages that ask for personal information.

Always compare the link in the email with the link to which you are directed and determine if they match and will lead you to a legitimate site

Log directly onto the official web site for the business identified in the email, instead of "linking" to it from an unsolicited email. If the email appears to be from your bank, credit card issuer, or other company you deal with frequently, your statements or official correspondence from the business will provide the proper contact information

Contact the actual business that supposedly sent the email to verify if the email is genuine

If you are asked to act quickly, or there is an emergency, it may be a scam. Scammers create a sense of urgency to get you to act quickly

Verify any requests for personal information from any business or financial institution by contacting them using the main contact information

Remember if it looks too good to be true, it probably is

If you have been a victim of this type of scam or any other Cyber crime, you can report it to the IC3 website at: The IC3 complaint database links complaints for potential referral to the appropriate law enforcement agency for case consideration. Complaint information is also used to identity emerging trends and patterns.

Remember - always watch for scams!


Back to Back Issues Page