Fraud Experts: Slow Down and Research Before Making Holiday Purchases

Mike Moen
Special to Devils Lake Daily Journal

BISMARCK, N.D. -- Over the coming weeks, North Dakotans will be clicking the "purchase" button as they order holiday gifts online, and fraud experts say scammers are finding ways to exploit consumers.

Amy Nofziger, director of fraud victim support for AARP, urged the public to avoid abrupt transactions done with little research, adding fake social-media ads are a big concern this year.

She said as people quickly scroll through online ads, they might not do enough vetting to make sure the company behind a post is real. She added supply chain issues could prompt people to bypass trusted companies through internet searches.

"And they're finding these websites that look legitimate, but they're not," Nofziger observed. "Take the name of the company, put it in a search engine, and do your research. "

A large number of packages left on porches results in a rise in thefts and the looming tax season makes us a target of IRS fraud.

When entering the unknown company's name, she suggested typing the words review, scam and complaints to see what pops up. Another common scam right now is getting a message disguised as a warning from well-known delivery companies, indicating something went wrong with a shipment to your address. Experts pointed out the messages often include harmful links.

Parrell Grossman, director of the consumer protection and antitrust division for the North Dakota Attorney General's Office, said they continue to field calls for a variety of scams, including online romance situations where someone loses their money to the person they connected with.

He worries people might be more vulnerable to those scenarios right now.

There are many types of holiday frauds and here are some tips on how to avoid them.

"When you're lonely at the holidays, it might be the time you decide to engage with someone over the internet," Grossman remarked. "And they can be very convincing, and they will have a myriad of reasons why they need money."

Nofziger emphasized you should never feel ashamed about falling victim to a scam, and taking immediate action is the best approach.

"These are good criminals that are targeting you to steal your money," Nofziger cautioned. "You should be mad, you should be empowered to report it."