Ways to protect yourself from cyber scams targeting holiday shoppers

Ways to protect yourself from cyber scams targeting holiday shoppers
The FBI is reminding shoppers that cyber criminals have aggressive and creative ways to steal money and personal information.

CHARLOTTE, NC (WECT) - You’ll want to be extra cautious as you fork out the cash or swipe your credit card when you’re doing your holiday shopping. The FBI is reminding shoppers that cyber criminals have aggressive and creative ways to steal money and personal information.

Scammers use various techniques to fool potential victims, from reshipping merchandise purchased with a stolen credit card to promoting the sale of a product that ends up being counterfit or non-existent. Here's a look at some of the common scams to be aware of, according to the FBI.

Fraudulent Classified Ads or Auction Sales

Internet criminals will post classified ads or auctions for products they do not actually have.

Be proactive and check each seller's rating and feedback along with their number of sales and the dates on which feedback was posted. Be wary of a seller with 100 percent positive feedback if they have a low number of feedback postings and all feedback was posted around the same date and time.

Gift Card Scams

Go straight to the source. Your best bet is to purchase gift cards directly from the merchant or authorized retail merchant.

Phishing and Social Networking

Be leery of e-mails or text messages you receive indicating a problem or question regarding your financial accounts.

In this scam, you are directed to follow a link or call the number provided in the message to update your account or correct the problem. The link actually directs the individual to a fraudulent website or message that appears legitimate; however, any personal information you provide, such as account number and personal identification number (PIN), will be stolen.

Another scam involves receiving an email message directing the recipient to a spoofed website that is designed to mislead you into providing personal information. The FBI warns of "one day only" promotions for recognized brands or websites. Fraudsters often use the hot items of the season to lure bargain hunters into providing credit card information.

Here are some tips, provided by the FBI, to avoid becoming a victim of cyber fraud:

  • Do not respond to unsolicited (spam) email.
  • Do not click on links contained within an unsolicited email.
  • Be cautious of emails claiming to contain pictures in attached files, as the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders. Always run a virus scan on attachment before opening.
  • Avoid filling out forms contained in e-mail messages that ask for personal information.
  • Always compare the link in the e-mail to the web address link you are directed to and determine if they match.
  • Log on directly to the official website for the business identified in the email, instead of “linking” to it from an unsolicited e-mail. If the e-mail appears to be from your bank, credit card issuer, or other company you deal with frequently, your statements or official correspondence from the business will provide the proper contact information.
  • Contact the actual business that supposedly sent the email to verify that the e-mail is genuine.
  • If you are requested to act quickly or there is an emergency, it may be a scam. Fraudsters create a sense of urgency to get you to act impulsively.
  • If you receive a request for personal information from a business or financial institution, always look up the main contact information for the requesting company on an independent source (phone book, trusted Internet directory, legitimate billing statement, etc.) and use that contact information to verify the legitimacy of the request.

All in all, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

To report online scams, file a complaint with the Internet Crimes Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.

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