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Local law enforcement warn about holiday scams; S.C. residents reported over $53M in losses to scams last holiday season

Holiday scammers have new tactics

Local and state law enforcement are urging S.C. residents to be wary of scams when shopping online or giving to charities, and ask shoppers to do their research and not give personal or financial information to those they don't know.

New warnings are out from consumer advocates and law enforcement about potential scams this holiday season as some of the current economic trends give scammers a fresh batch of ideas.

The two most prevalent holiday scams are non-delivery and non-payment crimes. Representatives from Columbia's FBI Field Office said in a release to media that its Internet Crime Complaint Center received more than 17,000 complaints of non-delivery goods — resulting in over $53 million in losses — during the 2020 holiday season. The FBI is encouraging shoppers to watch for scams that are designed to steal their money and personal information.

“More than ever consumers are shopping online and using alternative payment methods, aside from cash,” said Susan Ferensic, special agent in charge of the FBI Columbia Field Office. “Criminals have adapted to the way we shop, and they work overtime to create elaborate schemes to steal from us.”

Local law enforcement said it’s the season for scams, which always go up this time of year. They recommend shoppers do research before making purchases online or giving to charities. A simple Google search can go a long a way in protecting your privacy and your bank account.

“Unfortunately scams happen every day and it doesn’t matter your age, your race, your sex. People are good at scamming people. It’s their job, it’s what they do every day,” said Chris Hirsch from the Summerville Police Department. “Very intelligent people with college degrees sometimes fall victims to these scams.”

Law enforcement said, like with most things, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. He urged customers not to give their information to someone they haven’t properly vetted or are not familiar with.

Some of the common holiday scams FBI warns of are online shopping scams, social media scams like on Market Place, work from home scams, gift card scams and charity scams. More still, state consumer advocates say things like supply chain issues have scammers looking for new avenues because of desperate buyers looking for popular gifts.

“Especially the worldwide supply chain issues that we are seeing, scammers are taking advantage of that and trying to trick people into making rash decisions when they are doing their holiday shopping,” said Bailey Parker, public information director at the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs.

“Basically they are setting up fake websites (to) call and acting like Amazon and other companies. They are doing anything they can to basically separate you from your money,” Parker said. “...(T)hey are kind of finding of the hot items for the holiday season and they are making listings for those things either on fake website or on Facebook Market Place.”