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Double Check Before Hitting That Purchase Button

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More thieves than ever are targeting gun owners with elaborate Internet schemes. Fake websites are one of the biggest scams and a painful reminder to slow down, particularly during the holiday season, and double-check before hitting that purchase button when online. Ammo, gear and even firearms are not immune to the growing trend.

In The Crosshairs
American Rifleman reported on websites posing as legitimate firearm firms two years ago, but that criminal wave has risen to tsunami-like proportions since.  Perpetrators selling online—in all industries—that year stole $196 million from law-abiding U.S. citizens. Last year the figure more than tripled to $660 million, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Thousands were related to gun gear and accessories.

The imposters leverage legendary names to separate enthusiasts from their hard-earned cash. Winchester Repeating Arms has a warning on its website. So does Browning and Ruger. The list is a “who’s who” in the industry, and big companies don’t hold an exclusive on the problem.

There are even fraudulent sites allegedly offering freshly minted guns from a factory closed decades ago. Inadvertently landing on one of them is easy when looking for parts for those older firearms, but there are other avenues to a scammer’s doorstep.

Typos, Traps And Ads
Do an Internet search, and one of the options is often a spoofed website. It’s easy to get there with a typo in the URL, as well. The web has dozens of roads to the wrong place, but one is particularly magnetic this time of year.

Online advertisements with unbelievable deals draw many into a financial trap, according to a Federal Bureau of Investigation bulletin. Here are some of the FBI’s tips to avoid victimization:

  • Before clicking on an advertisement, check the URL to make sure the site is authentic. A malicious domain name may be similar to the intended URL but with typos or a misplaced letter.
  • Rather than search for a business or financial institution, type the business’s URL into an internet browser’s address bar to access the official website directly.
  • Use an ad-blocking extension when performing internet searches. Most web browsers allow a user to add extensions, including extensions that block advertisements. These ad blockers can be turned on and off within a browser to permit advertisements on certain websites while blocking advertisements on others.

Even savvy online purchasers can fall victim, especially when time to double check everything is a rare commodity during the holidays. Season doesn’t hold an exclusive on the nefarious activity, though. Fake retailers spawned overnight during COVID-19’s ammo shortage, for example.

Other tips include calling to verify authenticity and ensuring the URL starts with https:// for added security. Never transfer funds that are non-refundable by any means, including crypto currency or some other digital wallets. If the website doesn’t take a credit card, it’s another red flag. Run away from alleged gun companies that don’t realize that firearm must be shipped to an FFL for legal transfer—one of those details offshore criminals seem to ignore.

The Defense
Gun companies now routinely register ownership of URLs that are close to that of their official website, whether it’s an extension such as .biz, .us, and .info, among others. They also pursue legal channels to stop criminal operations.

It’s unfortunate and expensive, but a growing problem for businesses and the loyal customers they serve. Enthusiasts who run across scam websites are encouraged to notify the gun company they are spoofing and, just as importantly, always double-check before hitting that purchase button, especially this holiday season.

Article by GUY J. SAGI


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