One of the best ways to avoid scams is to research the seller before purchasing from them.

By Lily Belcher

While the holiday season is filled with joy and gift giving, many scammers take advantage of the wave of online purchases and rush to find the perfect present. More so, online shopping continues to grow, meaning more purchases are being made, leaving more room for scammers to take advantage of consumers.

Over the past few years, Hillsborough County has been watching both the national and local numbers of scams rise. The increasing number of scams around the holidays prompted Hillsborough County to advertise its tips and advice for avoiding scams, both specific to holidays and in general.

Hillsborough County encourages its citizens to pay attention to who they are making online purchases from. One way to avoid scams is to pay attention to the legitimacy of the website, which can be indicated by the spelling and grammar. Manager of Consumer Protection Services Eric Olsen also mentioned that if a deal is too good to be true, it probably is.

Some warning signs ahead of scams are pressuring sales tactics, big deals and discounts or flash sales that force consumers to make purchases without investigating the seller. Olsen also advised consumers to watch out for sellers who are offering low-stock items, since those are often items that the seller does not have available to sell.

“You want to be careful when you are doing business with someone you haven’t done business with before,” said Olsen. “If you can avoid the problem, that is the best way to [prevent getting scammed].”

Olsen warned donators about giving to charities over the holidays as well. There are many organizations, such as the Better Business Bureau, that can provide information on credible and trustworthy charities for those who want to donate.

If someone does become the victim of a scam, Hillsborough County will work with the individual to investigate the problem and solve the complaint. Hillsborough County is able to work with local law enforcement.

“Once the fraud happens, we can only react to it, and proactive prevention type activities are always the best, so we try to focus on that as much as we can,” said Olsen.

For more information, visit or contact the Department of Consumer Protection Services at 635-8316.

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