As shoppers cash in on holiday deals and prepare for the season of gift-giving, the Federal Bureau of Investigation's San Francisco division anticipates more fraud schemes floating around the internet.
The FBI said that scammers become more creative every year to sweep people's money and personal information out from under them.
The most prevalent scams are classified as non-delivery and non-payment crimes — essentially where either the buyer pays for goods and never receives them, or the seller never receives a payment after shipping items out to a customer.
According to the FBI's latest Internet Crime Report, over 2,100 Bay Area residents complained of non-delivery or non-payment crimes in 2021, accounting for more than $8 million in losses.
Santa Clara County had the highest amount of losses last year, followed by Alameda and San Francisco counties.
The FBI is also warning internet users of "pig butchering" schemes, in which a scammer develops a relationship with a victim online and convinces them to invest in fraudulent cryptocurrency. The victim will be directed to a fake cryptocurrency website, put investments towards the cryptocurrency and receive a notification that their investments have been denied. The scammer then vanishes, taking the victim's money with them.
Other scams that the FBI warns of — fake deals through phishing emails and advertisements, promotions on social media sites to take surveys for cash, gift card scams, fake charity organizations and apps designed as free games to steal people's personal data.
Though there's many scams out there, the FBI noted that there are key red flags to look out for.
"We want the public to know there are actions they can take to mitigate their chances of being victimized by an online scam," said FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert Tripp. "The FBI encourages consumers to treat online shopping as they would walking into a physical location - be aware, be alert, and safeguard your personal information and finances."
The FBI encourages residents to use strong, different passwords for every financial account, avoid clicking suspicious links, be weary of too-good-to-be-true deals, beware of purchases that require a gift card and instead use a credit card, and always get tracking numbers for online purchases.
Residents who believe they are a victim of a scam can report it to the FBI at IC3.gov or contact the FBI San Francisco Field Office at 415-553-7400.