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Buyers Beware: Scammers target online shoppers this holiday season

Scammers are trying to get the top things on their Christmas list: people's money and personal information.

BRYAN, Texas — The holiday shopping season is well underway and many have already taken advantage of the cyber deals. More people are expected to hit the stores virtually this year.

But, buyers beware. Scammers are in full force trying to get the top things on their Christmas list: people's money and personal information.

The FBI is sharing tips to avoid becoming a victim of online scams.

“We want to warn people, especially if you’re going to be doing a lot of shopping online, to be very careful," said Christina Garza, a public affairs officer for the FBI Houston Division.

If a deal is too good to be true, it probably is.

The FBI warns that scammers are selling goods that either isn’t what they’ve originally offered to be or the products never arrive. Schemes could involve brand name merchandise at extremely low discounts or promise gift cards as an incentive to purchase a product.

“Verify the website you are shopping on," Garza said. "Make sure that it is a legitimate vendor and legitimate retail site.” 

Steer clear of deals that come via unsolicited emails or even links from friends. The FBI advises people to do research on deals themselves. That could mean just looking up the product on the store’s webpage. 

“These fraudsters are paying for ads," Garza said. "It is very possible that it could pop up on anyone of your social media platforms, that does not mean it’s legitimate.” 

Do not open any unsolicited emails and do not click on any links attached. It could be a phishing scheme looking to steal your personal information like a credit card number. 

If a sender is trusted, still be safe. Hover over any links before clicking on them to make sure they direct you to the intended website. 

"Just make sure that it’s a trusted retailer and trusted seller," Garza said. "Do your homework before you put in all of that information that you’ll never be able to get back once you hit send. “ 

Be careful if someone asks you to purchase gift cards for them. The FBI warns in most instances when someone is asking a consumer to pay by purchasing gift cards, the deal or product is illegitimate.

The FBI also recommends people check their credit card and bank statements regularly. People can stay on top of their accounts and make sure no fraudulent charges have been made.

If you believe you have been a victim of fraud, make sure your report it immediately. 

•    Contact your financial institution immediately upon suspecting or discovering a fraudulent transfer. 

•    Request that your bank reach out to the financial institution where the fraudulent transfer was sent. 

•    Contact law enforcement. 

•    File a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).