SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WMBD) — While one person is shopping, another is scamming: The FBI Springfield office is warning that the busiest shopping time of the year is also the busiest for scams, and that consumers need to know how to keep themselves safe.

The most common types of scams during the holiday season, according to the FBI, are non-delivery and non-payment crimes. Non-delivery scams are when you pay for goods or services online, but they’re never received, while non-payment scams involve a seller shipping goods or services without ever receiving payment.

“Remembering the simple adage ‘If it looks too good to be true, it probably is,’ can go a long way in saving consumers from becoming victims,” said FBI Springfield Field Office Special Agent in Charge David Nanz. “Scammers are eager to take advantage of the increase in online shopping that comes with the holiday season. According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, 649 Central and Southern Illinoisians lost $602,812 in non-payment/non-delivery schemes in 2021. This year as of October, 312 victims have lost $912,417. The bottom line is – do your homework, verify the source, and protect your personal information.”

Scams often show up in the form of an email or text containing a link to a deal, a coupon, or free gift card. These links often download malware to your device.

Links to quizzes, advertisements, or other pop-up ads on social media often can lead to scams as well.

“It is always important to check and verify,” wrote the FBI in their statement. “Visit the company’s website to see if the free items are advertised there as well. Also, consumers can call the company, or the local chamber of commerce to verify the company is legitimate.”

The FBI promotes consumer alertness as the key to avoid being scammed. Try these tips:

  • Check your credit card statement routinely.
  • If purchasing merchandise online, ensure it is from a reputable source.
    o Don’t trust a site with your credit card information just because it claims to be secure.
    o Be cognizant of web page addresses that look like familiar sites but are slightly different.
  • Do not respond to unsolicited emails.
  • Avoid filling out forms contained in email messages that ask for personal information.
  • Only open attachments from known senders.
  • Only donate to known and trusted charities.
  • Secure credit card accounts with strong passwords or passphrases.
  • Be cautious of exaggerated claims of possible earnings or profits.
  • Beware when money is required up front for instructions or products for employment.
  • Be cautious when dealing with individuals outside of the country.

If you believe you are a victim of a scam, contact your financial institution immediately. Contact law enforcement and file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at IC3.gov, regardless of dollar loss. You can also call FBI Springfield at 217-522-9675.