The $53m figure reported lost to scammers during the 2020 holiday season could be even higher this year thanks to the continued impact of the pandemic, the FBI has warned.

Public Service Announcement on the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday yesterday revealed that the Feds received over 17,000 complaints of non-delivery of goods ordered online last year.

The FBI said scammers use multiple tactics to lure victims, advertising items for sale via unsolicited emails, untrusted websites, and social media.

Sometimes the goods are never delivered, and sometimes they are counterfeit. Hard-to-source items like event tickets and gaming consoles are widespread, the FBI claimed. Rumors of shortages of certain items due to the pandemic are likely to ramp up the pressure on individuals to make poor decisions, it added.

In luring unwitting shoppers into making a purchase, the fraudsters also access the victims’ personal and financial information.

Other ways to obtain this info are via unsolicited messages that claim the user has won a prize draw or gift card and can only enter their details to claim it. Fraudulent online surveys are often used for the same purpose.

“The holidays are also a popular time for pet purchases. Criminals will use legitimate website photos to promise the non-existent pet to multiple buyers,” the notice continued.

“Red flags include added shipping/carrier fees, taxes, and or vaccination costs. If purchasing a pet online, consider meeting the animal and owner via video chat before buying to reduce the chances of being scammed.”

The FBI listed a range of steps online shoppers should be taking to protect themselves from holiday seasons scams. These include: avoiding password reuse; keeping AV up-to-date on all machines; not clicking on links in unsolicited messages; and being wary of “too-good-to-be-true” offers.

Retailers can also do their bit to protect potential customers. A study this week found that 81% of UK retailers still had not implemented the highest level of anti-phishing protocol DMARC

This article FBI: 2021 Holiday Season Fraud Could Exceed $53m first appeared on Infosecurity Magazine