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‘It can cost you:’ How to avoid online retail scams this holiday season

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — 182 million Americans are expected to shop in person and online this holiday weekend according to the National Retail Federation.

Floridians are also expected to come out in force this holiday season, with the Florida Retail Federation anticipating a five percent increase in holiday spending over last year.

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And that shopping won’t all be in person.

“A lot of our businesses are finding themselves operating across all channels. Whether it’s online or in the store,” said Scott Shalley, President of the Florida Retail Federation.

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Over the course of the holiday season, a total of $221.8 billion is expected to be spent shopping online in the US.

That online shopping is unfortunately where people can most easily fall victims to scammers.

Few know it as well a former fake Nigerian Prince scammer Chris Maxwell.

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“Not everything you see online is real. Not everything you see online is true,” said Maxwell, who now does consulting work for the anti-scam website Social Catfish.

Last year, Americans lost $10.3 billion to online scams and the holidays are a prime opportunity for scammers to try and take advantage.

Florida ranked second in the nation for the most scam victims last year, with nearly 43,000 victims losing an average of almost $20,000 a person.

Maxwell said the most common red flags you should look out for while shopping online are prices that are just too good to be true.

“They post products for cheaper rates. So, once you click it, you make a payment, they’re going to siphon your money and you’re not going to get it back,” said Maxwell.

Maxwell recommends always double checking the URL of the website you’re purchasing from, as scammers can make fake sites that copy the websites of trusted retailers.

Additionally he suggests avoiding products marketed on social media.

“Twenty percent of what we see on social media is very fake, especially this advertisement. When you see an ad, it can look so appealing, it can look so interesting, but at the same time, it can cost you,” said Maxwell.

Maxwell also said you can use a reverse search application, like Social Catfish, to verify the identity of an online seller.

Additionally, he recommended and only tracking packages through official postal websites, as fake tracking link notification texts are also an opportunity for scammers to strike.

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