SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4) – Many Americans will start their holiday shopping in the coming weeks if they haven’t started already. According to the FBI, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) receives a large number of calls in the early months of each year, which they say suggests a correlation with holiday season shopping scams.

The FBI says thousands of people across the United States become victims of holiday scams. In a 2021 IC3 report, non-payment or non-delivery scams cost people more than $337 million. Credit card fraud made up for another $173 million in losses.

With the holidays just around the corner, the FBI offices in Salt Lake City are reminding Utahns to stay alert because “scammers don’t care if you’re on Santa’s nice list.”

First, when shopping online, always make sure the website’s URL is legitimate and secure. The website should have “https” in its web address. If it doesn’t, the FBI says you shouldn’t enter any information into the website.

When buying anything online, buyers should research the company and check reviews. Check the feedback rating and be wary of any buyers or sellers that have negative feedback ratings or no ratings at all. If you contact the seller, the FBI also said to be cautious with posts that say they are in the United States but then reply saying they are out of the country, have a family emergency, or give similar reasons.

Buyers should never wire money directly to a seller and should 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 PIN,” said FBI officials. “Instead of using that gift card for your payment, the scammer will steal the funds and you’ll never receive your item.”

Finally, after purchasing an item, stay up to date on the shipping process. The FBI recommends always getting tracking numbers for items you buy online so you can be sure they have been shipped.

The bureau also recommends monitoring your bank and credit card statements, especially when making a lot of purchases during the holidays. If there is any transaction you don’t recognize, you should call your bank or credit card immediately and dispute the charge. If you have been scammed, also contact local law enforcement and report the scam to the IC3.

“And remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is,” the FBI said in conclusion.