We have been warning against these types of scams for years and the bad guys are at it again. Black Friday attracts crowds, crowds attract scammers, and that means you need to take extra care when shopping online over the Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend.
About 75% of Americans plan to do at least half of their holiday shopping online this year, shows a new TransUnion Holiday Retail Fraud Survey. Yes, online shopping skips the crowds at the mall, but you need to navigate an increasingly dangerous cybersecurity minefield.
- Never click on links in emails. If you want to shop at a site, enter that site address in your browser. There are thousands of fake sites that look almost identical to the real thing. Don't fall for evil-twin shopping sites.
- Don't open attachments with special offers. It's a classic scam. The offer should be in the email and you should be able to see it right away.
- Watch for malicious ads and popups. Do not click on ads that sound too good to be true, and ignore popups that might propose the "best deal ever".
- Beware of e-skimmers. This is a new one. Do you know that bad guys sometimes skim your credit card at gas stations or ATMs? Well, there is a new flavor of that, the shopping website you order from might be infected with a "e-skimmer" and they steal your card data when you check out. You can prevent that by using PayPal or Amazon.
- Use a credit card to buy stuff online if possible. Try to limit the use of your debit card online as fraud on your debit card could drain your account.
- Do not shop over a public Wi-Fi. You simply do not know if it's secure and who is listening. Only shop using a secure, trusted network. If you have no other way to shop, use a VPN which encrypts your traffic.
- Be very careful when you see a free offer during the holidays. There is an explosion of all kinds of survey fraud and gift card scams.
- Do not re-use any of your passwords. Instead, use a password manager to create hard-to-break passwords. Re-using any password is literally an invitation to get hacked.
- Keep a close eye on your credit card and bank accounts. During this season, unexpected and strange charges might appear which could very well be the first sign your card or even your whole identity has been stolen. If you think you might have been scammed, stay calm and call your credit card company, nix that card and get a new one. Register today for online banking and download our Prairie State Bank & Trust to set alerts and to easily monitor your account activity.
- Be especially suspicious of gift card scams. They can be a perfect holiday gift, but gift card scams are skyrocketing. Only buy gift cards from trusted sources- Visit your local Prairie State Bank & Trust branch to purchase gift cards directly from us.
So, especially this time of year, do not let the bad guys exploit your holiday spirit and use it against you. Remember to stay alert when you shop online! Think Before You Click!