FBI center warns consumers how to avoid scams during Black Friday, holiday shopping

There aren't many brand new schemes, but scammers pull off the old ones with whole new elan

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Just in time to catch people ducking out of work early before taking off a travel day before Thanksgiving and rising, stupefied from a tryptophan-induced coma Friday morning to chase bargains on consumer goods like a thoughtful but slightly superficial mouse on a wheel – is the annual official list of Holiday Shopping Tips from the federal Internet Crime Complaint Center.

IC3– formerly the Internet Fraud Complaint Center – is a joint effort between the FBI and the National Wite Collar Crime Center (NW3C), a non-profit security professionals' association based in Glen Allen, Va., near Washington.

None of the advice is unique to this year; criminals have been using the Internet heavily enough and regularly enough that they don't come up with completely new scams from year to year.

They keep getting better at the same old gags, though, like the guys in Kung Fu movies who say they don't fear an opponent who can do 10,000 kicks, but the one who does one kick 10,000 times.

After enough practice, it's possible to make even a lame scam work.

Most of the other advice is relatively routine, but IC3 does have a scam-alert listing of the most recent twists, as well as an Internet Crime Schemes page listing all the old faves. Both are useful. The alerts are available by email.

There is also a page of tips on how to avoid or check the legitimacy of some email offers so you can figure out who in your pile of email is after what, just in case the "what" isn't Tickle Me Elmo.

Here are a few of the hot scams for this season, and tips on how to avoid them:

Gift Cards:

Buy them directly from the store, not from a third party site online.

The card you get in return could be one that was obtained fraudulently, which would cause the store to turn it away. It could be an act of fraud itself; what you get in the mail might be a Target card, but one with no value in its account. Or you could get nothing at all in the mail, which in some ways is a lot clearer.

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