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Never Use This One Card to Pay for Holiday Gifts, FBI Says

This common mistake could leave you not only broke, but without any gifts to show for it.

With Halloween behind us and Thanksgiving fast approaching, millions of people throughout the U.S. are already shopping for holiday gifts for their friends and family members. And while ensuring that your packages arrive on time may be at the top of your list of holiday priorities, experts say that may not be the only concern you should have about your gifts this year.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), if you're using this one method of payment for your holiday gifts, you may not be getting those gifts you ordered—and your money and personal information could be stolen, too. Read on to find out how scammers are targeting holiday shoppers and how to protect yourself.

RELATED: If You Get This Message from Your Bank, Contact Authorities, FBI Says.

Be wary of paying sellers with pre-paid gift cards, the FBI warns.

gift cards on display at target
Cassiohabib / Shutterstock

Whether you were given them as a holiday gift the year prior or purchased them at a discount during a sale, gift cards are generally viewed as a great way to purchase goods while saving yourself a few bucks along the way.

However, the FBI says that if you're buying presents through retailers you don't know or via person-to-person transactions, they may present a major problem. "In these scams, a seller will ask you to send them a gift card number and PIN. Instead of using that gift card for your payment, the scammer will steal the funds, and you'll never receive your item," the FBI explains.

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If you're buying from a new website, one detail can tip you off to a potentially unsafe purchase.

young man with glasses shopping with credit card on his phone

While the internet is home to millions of legitimate stores, with countless new retailers popping up every day, it's easy to get scammed if you're not careful.

Even on legitimate-looking websites, your personal information could be at risk if you enter it. The FBI recommends only providing personal information on websites that have "https" in the web address; if this is not present, don't input any of your details and navigate away from the site.

Always read reviews before buying from new places.

person reading customer reviews on phone
Shutterstock/Monster Ztudio

In addition to looking for signs that a website is secure, like "https" in the URL, the FBI recommends looking up reviews for any company that you're unfamiliar with before purchasing from them.

Similarly, if you're buying through social media or any other type of marketplace, look up the feedback they've received from other buyers before proceeding. "Be wary of buyers and sellers with mostly unfavorable feedback ratings or no ratings at all," the FBI warns.

If you think you may have been scammed, contact authorities.

federal trade commission website

If a seller with whom you've made a purchase using a gift card stops responding to your messages or never sends follow-up information regarding shipping or other details of your purchase, check with the gift card issuer to see if the charges can be refunded.

If you made a purchase using your credit card that you suspect to be fraudulent, contact your credit card company to report the fraud. If you believe your money has been stolen by an unscrupulous seller, you can also report the incident to your local police department and file a fraud report with the Federal Trade Commission.

RELATED: If You Get This Call from Police, Hang Up Immediately, Authorities Warn.

Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more
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