The Christmas season is swinging into high gear, prompting many to start browsing online stores in order to find that perfect gift for a friend or loved one.

However, there are also risks whenever one is shopping online, and the FBI’s Houston office is warning both buyers and sellers to stay alert and abreast of possible scams this holiday season.

The two most prevalent of these holiday scams are non-delivery and non-payment crimes, the office said. This happens when either payment is rendered but no product is received, or when goods are shipped but the seller is never paid. A news release from the FBI said such scams cost people more than $265 million in 2020, according to its Internet Crime Complaint Center, while credit card fraud accounted for $129 million in losses.

“The IC3 receives a large volume of complaints in the early months of each year, suggesting a correlation with the previous holiday season’s shopping scams,” the news release said.

Among other cautions, the FBI warned shoppers to not click on any suspicious links or attachments in emails, on social media or on websites as phishing and similar scams use those links to get someone’s personal information such as their name, password, bank account number and more. Residents are also advised to check each website to make sure the URL is legitimate (using “https” in the web address) before inputting personal information, and verifying the legitimacy of a buyer or seller before proceeding with an online transaction.

Shoppers should also avoid wiring money directly to sellers or using pre-paid gift cards for online shopping, the FBI said.

Once an item has been purchased, the FBI said people should also monitor the shipping process to ensure nothing has happened, which can be done by getting a tracking number for online purchases.

The FBI said residents should call their bank or credit card company to dispute a fraudulent charge, contact local law enforcement and report the scam to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at www.ic3.gov if they believe they might have been victimized.

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