BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Baltimore office is reporting a rise in shopping scams linked to fraudulent websites and social media.

The FBI received a number of complaints from victims who said they didn’t receive an item they bought from websites officer low prices on items like as gym equipment, small appliances, tools and furniture.

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Victims said they were led to these websites via ads on social media or while searching for specific items online, where they purchased the items.

Instead the victims received disposal face masks from China, regardless of what they ordered.

The purchases also have these things in common:

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  • Payment was made via an online money transfer service.
  • The retail websites provided valid but unassociated U.S. addresses and telephone numbers under a “Contact Us” link, misleading victims to believe the retailer was located within the U.S.
  • Many of the websites used content copied from legitimate sites; in addition, the same unassociated addresses and telephone numbers were listed for multiple retailers.
  • Some victims who complained to the vendor about their shipments were offered partial reimbursement and told to keep the face masks as compensation. Others were told to return the items to China in order to be reimbursed, which would result in the victim paying high postage fees, or agree to a partial reimbursement of the product ordered without returning the items received. All attempts made by the victims to be fully reimbursed, or receive the actual items ordered, were unsuccessful.

The FBI said the websites used .club or .top instead of .com and were registered in the last six months. They also used a private domain registration.

The websites also offered the items at significantly discounted prices and were advertised on social media.

Here are some tips to avoid being victimized:

  • Do your homework on the retailer to ensure it is legitimate.
  • Check the Whois Public Internet Directory for the retailer’s domain registration information.
  • Conduct a business inquiry of the online retailer on the Better Business Bureau’s website (www.bbb.org).
  • Check other websites regarding the company for reviews and complaints.
  • Check the contact details of the website on the “Contact Us” page, specifically the address, email, and phone number, to confirm whether the retailer is legitimate.
  • Be wary of online retailers offering goods at significantly discounted prices.
  • Be wary of online retailers who use a free email service instead of a company email address.
  • Don’t judge a company by their website; flashy websites can be set up and taken down quickly.

Here’s what to do if you’re a victim of this type of scam:

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  • Report the activity to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.IC3.gov or your local FBI field office, which can be located at www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices.
  • Report the activity to the online payment service used for the financial transaction.
  • Contact your financial institution immediately upon discovering any fraudulent or suspicious activity and direct them to stop or reverse the transactions.
  • Ask your financial institution to contact the corresponding financial institution where the fraudulent or suspicious transfer was sent.

If you believe you are the victim of an Internet scam or cyber crime, or if you want to report suspicious activity, please visit the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.IC3.gov.