The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI are warning residents to be wary of scams this holiday season.
Every year, the FBI reports, thousands of people in the United States become victims of holiday scams. Scammers can rob you of hard-earned money, personal information, and, at the very least, a festive holiday mood. Scammers target the holidays as people are more frequently shopping online and receptive to phone calls and may not recognize the potential scams.
An AARP survey of 2,012 adult American consumers found that “three-quarters of U.S. consumers have experienced or been targeted by at least one form of fraud that can be tied to the holidays, including requests from (often fake) charities, online shopping scams and fraudulent communications about shipping problems.” Scammers have become increasingly sophisticated and impersonate big box retailers online through fake websites or emails.
Locally, a Flagler County woman received a spam email stating that her eBay account was being scammed and was instructed to deposit money into a Bitcoin ATM to protect her money. The female withdrew several thousand dollars from her bank account and deposited it into an ATM Bitcoin account, believing it would protect the rest of her money.
In other cases, callers pose as a relative or grandchild saying they need money to avoid being arrested or to buy gifts for family members for the holidays and ask you to transfer money or buy gift cards and give them the information.
According to the FBI, the two most prevalent of these holiday scams are non-delivery and non-payment crimes. In a non-delivery scam, a buyer pays for goods or services they find online, but those items are never received. Conversely, a non-payment scam involves goods or services being shipped, but the seller is never paid.
The Internet Crime Complaint Center’s (IC3) 2021 report found that non-payment or non-delivery scams cost people more than $337 million. Credit card fraud accounted for another $173 million in losses.
Similar scams to beware of this time of year are auction fraud, where a product is misrepresented on an auction site, and gift card fraud, when a seller asks you to pay with a pre-paid card.
“Please protect yourself from becoming a victim by never giving out personal or financial information and never agreeing to pay any sum of money by way of gift cards or crypto-currency account. Those are clear indications that it is likely not legitimate,” said Sheriff Rick Staly. “If a caller claims to be a grandchild, hang up and call your
grandchild personally to verify the legitimacy of the request. If you find out it was a fraudster calling then take the opportunity to wish your grandchild a Merry Christmas.”
Tips to avoid holiday scams:
- Don’t click any suspicious links or attachments in emails, on websites, or on social
- Check each website’s URL to make sure it’s legitimate and A site you’re buying from should have https in the web address. If it doesn’t, don’t enter your information on that site.
- If you’re purchasing from a company for the first time, do your research and check
- Never wire money directly to a seller or individual that you do not know or cannot verify their
- Avoid paying for items with pre-paid gift cards. In these scams, a seller will ask you to send them a gift card number and Instead of using that gift card for your payment, the scammer will steal the funds, and you’ll never receive your item.
- Use a credit card when shopping online and check your statement If you see a suspicious transaction, contact your credit card company immediately to dispute the charge.
- And remember: If the “deal” seems too good to be true, it probably is.
In a separate type of scam, the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office has received several complaints regarding phone calls received by an unidentified person, claiming they are employed by the Sheriff’s Office. The unidentified person advises the citizen that they failed to show up for jury duty and must pay a fine to get the charges dropped.
First, many people summoned for jury duty unfortunately don’t show up. They can be penalized. But they’re not.
Second, Sheriff’s Office will never request that a fee be paid in order to avoid arrest. If this ever occurs, it is a scam. This type of scam has occurred several times over the last few years.
“The criminals that commit these types of acts have no conscience and play on the fear of unsuspecting citizens. They do not always go by one name or method,” said Sheriff Rick Staly. “If you have any questions about whether a Deputy Sheriff works for our agency, call us and verify it. We will never ask you for money to avoid jail time or being arrested.”
If You’ve Been Scammed:
- Call your credit card company or your bank. Dispute any suspicious charges. You
- Contact local law enforcement by calling 386-313-4911.
- Report the scam to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at ic3.gov.
If a citizen has a question about whether a Deputy or Detective is employed by the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, please call 386-313-4911. Any citizen who has been contacted by someone posing as an FCSO employee is asked to contact us or to submit a tip at [email protected]