FBI Issues New Warning About the Latest Scams Designed to "Steal Your Money"
Criminals are trying to take even larger amounts from you this holiday season.
Scams are rampant during the holiday season, and anyone who has fallen for one knows they can be as frustrating as they are costly. Local and federal authorities are constantly issuing alerts when new criminal tactics surface, but the current cons are trickier than ever. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) just issued a warning about the latest holiday scams, which are designed to steal your money—and lots of it. Read on to find out about the cons the FBI wants you to be on the lookout for, and how to keep yourself safe.
Some holiday scams use your deliveries as bait.
The holiday season is particularly rife with fraud attempts, and this certainly isn't the first warning that officials have given to the public.
Earlier in December, police in Leander, Texas, issued a warning about a new package delivery scam, ABC-affiliate KVUE reported. Scammers pose as delivery companies, sending you a message to say that your package was undeliverable. The text also includes a link to "change your address," which actually allow thieves to steal your personal information.
A similar scam emerged in Blacksburg, South Carolina, where a police officer was targeted. Officer Shahna Blanton of the Blacksburg Police Department told CBS-affiliate WSPA that she got a text about an undeliverable package. She was waiting on a delivery, but the text included a major red flag—it asked her to pay for re-delivery. "Which is not a thing," she said. "Obviously, I backed out of all that and closed it out."
These package scams are crafty, but by calling the company you ordered from, you should be able to resolve the issue quickly. However, a new scam costs you more time—as well as more money—the FBI says.
Scammers are using a different tactic for a larger payout.
The FBI field office in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is warning residents about a scam tactic with a bizarre name: "pig butchering." According to the agency, the investment scam "is heavily scripted and contact intensive."
In this scenario, scammers ("the butchers") run a long con on social media or dating apps like Tinder, where they make contact with their victim ("the pig") and work to develop a relationship, the New York Post reported.
According to an Oct. 3 public service announcement (PSA) from the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), criminals will do this by spoofing the information of a "long lost contact known to the victim" or by setting themselves up as a friend or potential romantic partner.
Catfishing alone is hurtful and deceptive, but the FBI says that pig butchering takes things a step further.
They use methods often employed in romance scams.
During the holiday season, more people are online looking for deals on gifts or someone friendly to talk to, which gives scammers a bigger pool of targets to choose from. They gain their victim's trust, and rather than just trying to elicit a one-time payment, these con artists look for a larger payout via crypto investments.
"After building trust and rapport, the scammer will convince the victim to make investments in cryptocurrency to take advantage of the potential for high yield returns," the press release from the Albuquerque field office reads. "To facilitate the investment and demonstrate the returns on investment, victims are directed to websites that appear authentic but are actually controlled by the scammer."
These fake sites allow victims to track their investments, which they see "growing exponentially," the IC3 PSA says. However, when they try to cash out their investments, they are either denied or told that they need to pay additional fees, meaning they lose even more money. At that point, the scammer will vanish with the victim's funds—cutting off contact, shutting down the fraudulent website, or both.
The FBI asks you to be wary of other online scams, too.
Unfortunately, pig butchering isn't the only scam you could fall for this holiday season.
Law enforcement in New Mexico also noted an uptick in a scheme where victims (usually older adults) are told that their banking information is compromised and that there are "unusual transactions." The scammer gives the target a link to transfer all of their funds to a "U.S. Government-protected" account, the FBI says. Thieves may even go so far as to use fake law enforcement sites to convince their victims to do so.
There are sweepstakes scams, where victims are told they've won a prize but have to pay money for taxes and fees up front, as well as online shopping scams, where targets are sent phishing emails with "too-good-to-be-true" deals.
If you shop on Amazon, you should also be aware of a credit card scam, where perpetrators send an email telling you your card on file isn't working and ask for another that's then compromised. Victims are also often told that they need to pay to restore their Amazon account following a "suspicious purchase" that's under investigation by the police or even the FBI.
Be proactive in protecting yourself.
When it comes to pig butchering scams, the IC3 PSA says you should be looking for warning signs such as misspelled URLs and domain names that are impersonating major financial institutions. In addition, you should avoid downloading suspicious apps unless you can verify them.
"If an investment opportunity sounds too good to be true, it likely is," the agency says. "Be cautious of get rick quick schemes."
For scams in general, you should "do your homework" and ensure that you use strong passwords for all of your accounts. It's always a good idea to look up online retailers on the Better Business Bureau's website and avoid making purchases that require payment with a gift card. Avoid clicking unfamiliar links, too, and be aware of online retailers that are offering you goods at steep discounts.
But even those who are the most vigilant can still fall for these scams. If you're a victim, contact your bank right away to have them stop or reverse transactions. You can also ask them to contact the financial institution where payments were sent on your behalf. No matter how much money is involved, the FBI also asks that you report it and provide all relevant information.