3 Cyber Scams Targeting Holiday Shoppers—And How to Avoid Them

December 20, 2018, 8:56 PM UTC

With peak online holiday shopping occurring, the FBI is warning customers to watch out for scams.

While we know cybercrime is a problem throughout the year, it’s especially problematic around the holidays. As such, the FBI is advising consumers to watch out for three specific kinds of scams: fraudulent classified and auctions, gift card scams, and phishing attempts.

Gift Cards

The only way you should purchase gift cards is through the merchant or an authorized reseller. Gift cards that were purchased through an auction site, or obtained originally through fraudulent means, can be deactivated by the merchant and not honored for purchases.

If something seems like a deal too good to be true, it probably is.

Fraudulent Classified Ads and Auction Sales

The FBI warns that some people will try to sell items through classified ads and auction sales they don’t actually have. That’s because the items they do have in some cases may be stolen, or purchased using a stolen credit card.

Also, customers should be careful not to provide any financial information directly to sellers. Instead, customers should conduct transactions through reputable merchants and payment services. In the case of auction sites, check the seller’s rating, feedback and their number of sales before making a buy.

If this is the first item they trying to sell, or they have poor reviews, then there’s a good chance something might go wrong with the purchase.


And as always, the FBI wars against emails or text messages asking for your financial information. Sometimes scammers will impersonate friends or family members and as for cash through social networks to deal with a “problem.”

Scammers will also send emails that appear to be from reputable businesses that will point customers to a fraudulent site where they will steal credit card information. Make sure to look both at the origin of emails as well as the URL of a site you’re pointed to in order to ensure you’ve intended on visiting.

You can check out the FBI’s full list of tips and warnings here.