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Cyber Monday Scams: How to stay safe and shop online

November 2020 by Experts

A record number of people are expected to do their U.S. holiday shopping online because of the coronavirus pandemic - which means an increased risk of falling for online scams, experts say.

Steven Merrill, the section chief of the FBI’s Financial Crimes section, said in a phone interview that the agency expects cybercriminals to put in extra work trying to scam people looking for Cyber Monday deals.

"The majority of people are going to be home, and they’re going to do their shopping online more so than ever," he said.

Scams that target shoppers often rely on fake websites that mimic real online stores, similar to the kinds that target people every year. But people who are in tighter financial straits or otherwise stressed from the pandemic may be more likely to fall for them this year, Merrill said.

"One thing we’ve seen as a result from covid, people are economically distressed and people tend to make decisions that they wouldn’t normally do because circumstances are different," he said. "People tend to lose the ability to do due diligence and be careful."

A primary way to trick people into visiting such lookalike sites is to email enticing coupons, said Mieke Eoyang, a cybercrime expert at Third Way, a security-minded think tank.

"Look out for deals that seem too good to be true that are emailed, and instead go to the website separately and see if that deal is actually on the website," Eoyang said. "Because a lot of people are going to receive emails trying to tempt them into deals that are too good to be true."

Rania Mankarious, CEO of Crimestoppers Houston: "During a time when people want to get back to any sense of normal and want to give gifts and receive gifts as a way of connecting, it’s terrible to imagine that cyber criminals are using this vulnerability to cash in - but the reality is, they are and succeeding. A record number of consumers have moved online and are shopping. In fact, Cyber Monday will is expected to break all US records with an astounding 10.8 billion - 12.7 billion spent online in one day, alone. A large majority of those shoppers are millennials who have indicated (88 percent) that they neither pay attention to a sites reputation nor (74 percent) check to make sure the site is safe. We know scammers target all of us though. In fact, McAfee’s Advanced Research team found evidence that online cybercrime has increased dramatically with 419 threats per minute in the second quarter of 2020.

So as you shop on line, please consider the following:
- don’t assume a site is reputable simply because you saw an add on a reputable website or social media platform
- do you due diligence, investigate the site, see if there’s a brick and mortar shop, look for contact information, ratings and history
- always shop using one credit card, that you check regularly; do not use a debit card
- use a secure network, don’t shop when you’re on a public WiFi, always use secure usernames and passwords
- get used to employing multi-factor authentication and have updated antivirus software, malware removal software and ransomware protection software installed

Remember, scammers will use email, text and fake websites to get you to click and share your information. In addition to gathering the cash from your fake purchase, they‘ll also work to gather PII (personally identifiable information) to steal your identity and create false IDs or credit cards.

If you’ve noticed you’ve been a victim, call your credit card company immediately and file a report with the FBI and/or your local law enforcement. "

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