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Authorities share phone and online shopping scam red flags, to defend yourself during the holidays

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(KWWL) - With the holidays around the corner, Cedar Falls Public Safety  is warning folks about phone and online shopping scams.

According to the department, they usually see an increase in scam cases during this time of year, and want to warn folks of red flags before it's too late.


  1. Don't pay by gift card

  2. IRS or any government agencies contact people by mail, NOT phone calls

  3. Government agencies won't request personal information by email, text, or social media

  4. Social Security Numbers are never suspended

  5. Caller ID cannot be trusted

  6. The government agencies will never threaten to arrest you over the phone


  1. Look closely at website domain name, if spelled slightly off it's fake.

  2. Don't click on random links if emailed to you. Look up the links in a separate window before clicking on it.

  3. Odd layouts , poor web design, low quality visuals are signs of a fake website.

  4. Research the website through the BBB by CLICKING HERE.

Having dealt with a variety of scam cases, Lieutenant Kari Rae lists out the common ones to look out for.

"They need money for family members, their calling on their behalf, if they ask for you to go buy gift cards and send them the information, there's no way to recoup that money when you go buy gift cards," Rae said, "if they say a law enforcement agency has a warrant for your arrest and you have to pay a certain amount of bonds, that is not accurate."

Another red flag to be aware of is if a caller is pressuring you to make a decision. The department wants to remind people you're not on any clock, a nd you have time to make decisions, research, or double check who is calling you. In the case you were scammed and don't know what to do, Lieutenant Rae explained the procedure to move forward.

"Number one call the company or call your credit card information. If that's been compromised, get everything stopped. Call your bank, call your credit card stuff everything immediately. from there they're going to tell you that you need a police report," Rae said, "any bank records anything showing what was purchased, those records help us to proceed."

The department also said if you feel any doubt about a call or website, trust your instincts, and use that as an indicator look the caller or link up.

If you're worried about scams or are worried about Christmas gifts not getting here in time, the department's biggest piece of advice is to shop in person. Being able to shop at a local store or boutique not only gives reassurance of not getting scammed, but also you know you're items will be here in time for Christmas.


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