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Consumer protection agencies warn about scam calls targeting online holiday shoppers

The over $50 billion per year industry has thrived in 2020 not only despite, but because of the pandemic.
Published: Dec. 9, 2020 at 8:00 PM EST
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JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - While many businesses are going under this year, investigators say a more than $50 billion industry is thriving. The growth comes not only despite the COVID pandemic but because of it.

Scam calls have already claimed nearly $20 billion from consumers this year, with about 30% more shopping online. “Scammers are very good at what they do,” said Catherine Honeycutt, a Better Business Bureau of Eastern North Carolina’s spokesperson. “They’re constantly finding new ways of improving their methods and trapping their victims.”

The Federal Trade Commission is warning shoppers of scam calls specifically targeting online holiday shopping, with some calls requesting further information about an Amazon package ordered suspiciously or a breach on your Apple account.

According to the Better Business Bureau, an additional five billion more scam calls went out last year, and credit card fraud is up 27%. “The ones that are trying to pitch something to you, they’re trying to get that personal information from you, trying to get your credit card information,” said Honeycutt.

About $50 billion more is estimated to be spent online than last year as the pandemic drives shoppers online. The calls come from around the world. It makes them nearly impossible to investigate, and your money nearly impossible to recover.

“It involves numerous jurisdictions,” said Col. Chris Thomas of the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office. “It’s just hard for a Sheriff’s Office or a police department to follow up on. The best thing to do is just practice prevention. As opposed to trying to follow up after you’ve been a victim.”

If you receive a scam call, investigators say you should:

-Never give out personal information over the phone.

-Contact companies directly if you receive a call from someone claiming to work for them.

-Never call a number a scam call provides.

-Don’t follow through to connect to a customer service representative.

-Report the call to consumer protection agencies so they can monitor it further.

“It may not seem as out of the blue to get a text saying that your package has been delayed; click here to learn more,” said Honeycutt. “But, unfortunately, you do have to do a little bit of extra research.”

Investigators also recommend asking your phone company about adding scam blockers to your phone plans, if it has that option available.

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