Beware These Holiday Scams on Black Friday and Cyber Monday

With all the Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales going on this week and next, now is a prime opportunity for scammers to take advantage of the holiday season. Shoppers looking to score good deals this week should beware of online shopping-related scams, including fake retailers, social media scams and missing packages scams.

U.S. sales online are expected to hit $207 billion this holiday season – a record – according to Adobe, CNBC reports. A big chunk of that – about 17% – will occur between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. With all the consumerism in the air, it's easy to fall for scams, with 75% of American adults anticipating that their e-commerce through big retailers like Amazon or Walmart will be similar to or increase relative to the 2020 holiday season, a recent AARP survey says.

"We are entering a sensitive holiday and tax period, and we urge people to protect their personal information," IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said last Friday in an alert, which warned of potential identity thieves using that data to file fraudulent tax returns.

With fake retailer scams, bogus websites try to lure consumers with ads for big sales on popular gifts that are out of stock or hard to find elsewhere, says online security site Social Catfish. Due to supply-chain issues and higher prices for some items, the issue may be more prevalent this year than in the past.

How to tell it's fraud: A fake site's domain name will be different than the actual retailer's site, meaning it could have an extra letter or number. The site may also have grammatical errors or limited contact information. To avoid being scammed by a fake retailer, research unfamiliar companies and read customer reviews. Never buy a product via wire transfer, money order or gift card.

With social media scams, scammers are using social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube to amplify harmful content during the pandemic, the Federal Trade Commission says. Around the holidays, it's common for brands and influencers to offer product giveaways on Instagram; scammers may try to mimic that by advertising a chance to win a holiday prize – but then include malicious links in Instagram posts that steal consumers' personal data.

How to tell it's fraud: A malicious social media account won't have a blue checkmark, which platforms use to verify a real page from copycats. It might also include typos and little other content.

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With missing package scams, scammers may pretend to be from FedEx or another shipping firm, text for emailing a link to track the package. But clicking the link allows criminals to steal consumers' personal and financial information. Consumers should also be on the lookout for "missed delivery" voicemails or physical tags on a door with a number to call to verify their information. Never click a link or call back a number from an unexpected delivery notice. Instead, contact the company directly using a verified number or website.