It is the holiday season—one of the busiest and, hopefully, one of the most enjoyable times of year. It is also a time to be especially careful with your money, as scam artists are also busy, and the ongoing pandemic may give them added opportunities to do their dirty work.
With that in mind, here’s some advice from Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum on how to navigate events like Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday safely and enjoyably.
“Your money is hard-earned,” said Attorney General Rosenblum. “You want to put it to good use — and not have others trick you out of it. I suggest shopping early, shopping local, and giving only to charities registered with my agency, the Oregon Department of Justice. Even then, only spend or give your money to businesses and organizations you know and trust. This year, we have the added stress of shipping delays and backordered items, which gives scammers additional ways to take advantage of you--especially by tricking you into thinking they can get that package here sooner or get you that 'out-of-stock' or 'sold out' gift item."
Five tips for savvy shopping and wise giving this holiday season:
Tip 1: Avoid buying items that will never arrive.
There are all sorts of sophisticated ways to make you think you’re buying “the perfect gift.” Scammers can figure out how to interrupt your searches with bogus offerings and seemingly good prices. You go to the site, put the item in your cart, and click the “buy” button. BUT: You don’t get a tracking number; the package never arrives; and the seller disappears with your money.
When this happens, you’ve fallen victim to a “non-delivery scam.” To avoid being victimized this way, stick to reputable retailers. Try to avoid merchants with whom you’re unfamiliar. If you’re shopping with a new merchant, check to confirm that the merchant has a physical address, a customer service phone number, and a professional-looking site.
Warning signs of scammers include poor spelling, odd design, and slow loading. PLEASE NOTE: Only buy from secure sites with (a) SSL encryption and (b) a lock symbol at the beginning of the site’s URL. Secure sites will have https in their URL — rather than http. Paying attention to this difference can save you a lot of trouble.
Tip 2: Watch out for messages about an item you never ordered.
In this scam, you get an email or other message telling you there is an issue with an item you ordered. But you don’t recognize the item and know you never ordered it. The message may be a phishing email meant to trick you into clicking a suspect link, providing your bank login credentials, or turning over other private information. If you are unsure if a message is legitimate, contact the business directly — through their website, chat, or customer service phone number. Do not respond to the message unless and until you’ve ascertained it’s legitimate.
Tip 3: When making year-end donations: Do your research and only give to registered charities.
There are over 22,000 registered charities in Oregon. The Oregon Department of Justice Charitable Activities Section is responsible for supervising and regulating all charitable organizations within Oregon. So before you give, check the Oregon Department of Justice charity database to learn more about specific charities, and to be certain they are registered with the state. You can also use this site to file an online complaint about a charity or to obtain copies of its financial records.
Tip 4: Be wary if solicitations for donations seem aggressive.
Resist high-pressure appeals for donations. To maintain the most control over your giving and your spending, it’s best for you to initiate the contact with a charity, or an online store—not the other way around. No legitimate organization will insist that you donate immediately
Tip 5: Think twice about crowdfunding sites like, GoFundMe.
Not all gifts are tax-deductible. Only gifts to charities that have IRS 501(c)(3) status are tax-deductible. Gifts to individuals through GoFundMe and similar platforms are not tax-deductible. On top of that, they may not be refundable. If you do want to make a tax-deductible donation, check the IRS website to ensure your gift is to a qualified organization. Make sure the charity provides a written confirmation or an emailed receipt of your donation. Then keep that for your records.