By Andrea Alvarez

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News at 10) – The FBI and cybersecurity experts are warning about internet crimes for online shoppers ahead of the holidays.

Every year, thousands of people become victims of holiday scams. Scammers can rob you of money and personal info. CW44 spoke with local FBI agents in Tampa who are urging you to stay vigilant.

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“We’ve seen an increase in cybersecurity schemes and fraud scams since the beginning of the pandemic. And we regularly see increases in those types of fraud schemes around the holidays. So now we have the perfect storm,” said Andrew Sekela, a special agent for FBI Tampa.

The IC3, or the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center receives a high volume of complaints in the early months of each year, suggesting a correlation with the previous holiday season’s shopping scams.

“So consumers need to be especially vigilant about the potential scams out there because there’s no doubt that the scammers are going to be even more active than they have been in the last year and a half,” said Angent Sekela.

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The two most prevalent of these holiday scams according to the FBI are non-delivery and non-payment crimes. A non-delivery scam happens when a buyer pays for goods online, but those items are never received. A non-payment scam involves goods being shipped, but the seller is never paid. Sekela also warns to keep an eye out for offers that seem too good to be true.

“If you get an email from a company, or a text message from a company that has a link to click, don’t just click on that link,” he said. “Go into the URL browser and type in that website address yourself. You also want to be looking for that “S” on that “HTTPS”. That indicates that it is a secure website.”

According to the internet crime complaint center’s (ic3) 2020 report, these types of scams cost people more than $265 million. Credit card fraud accounted for another $129 million in losses.

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“If you become a victim of a scam, make sure your file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center,” said Agent Sekela.