KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — As many do their holiday shopping online and take advantage of the Cyber Monday deal, the FBI wants to give consumers some safety tips during the busiest cybercrime season of the year.
Jason Jarnagin, Supervisory Special Agent of the Knoxville Cybercrime Squad, said there’s a lot of scams being reported across the country right now. With more people going online to spend money, he says there are more opportunities for shoppers to get scammed.
“Today a lot of people are going to be on their computers, they’re going to be clicking a lot of advertisements that pop up and they’re going to be infected with malware and things like that and be susceptible to online frauds,” Jarnagin said.
There are the basic tips for protection against cyberattacks, such as continuously changing passwords, not using the same password for everything and keeping computers updated with the latest software updates. But that’s not all people can do to stay protected.
Jarnagin said online thieves know shoppers are looking for the best deals. They take advantage of the deal hunters, often placing their fraud in plain view. “Social media is a big, big place to find these things. It’s quite routine to see them there,” Jarnagin said.
He said someone could easily come across a fake website when looking through a search engine for good deals. There are clues shoppers can look for when checking if a site is legitimate, which is something everyone should do when online. Jarnagin says people need to look for the ‘https’ and ‘.com’ at the beginning and end of website addresses.
“A scammer can easily copy a website, make it look legitimate, and then steal your credit card information or your personal information and use that maliciously,” Jarnagin said.
If it’s not a legitimate site or one that the shopper is familiar with, use the utmost caution, especially if the website is requesting personal information or credit card information. If the consumer plan to buy online,
Jarnagin said they should try to use a credit card because credit card companies typically have more protections against scams. Using a credit card also doesn’t give scammers access to the shopper’s personal banking information.
If you’ve already shopped, but you have concerns about a site you visited, there are at least three steps to take:
“Make sure you’re get a tracking number for anything that’s being ordered and shipped. That’s one indicator. Obviously, you can see if something has been tracked, or shipped rather, from the merchant. And then contact your credit card company, of course, if you feel you may have a suspicious transaction. And then, of course, report it to the FBI if you are a victim of a fraud,” Jarnagin said.
Jarnagin said the holiday season overall is the biggest time for online scams, and scammers will also target people who want to donate to charities. Again, he said it’s best to only donate to reputable charities and to double check the website.
Another scam Jarnigan warned about was return fraud. He said that’s when a scammer calls or emails a consumer, saying they recently purchased an item and could return it. He said it might seem like the company is reaching out, trying to warn the consumer of fraudulent activity, but it’s in fact the opposite.
Jarnagin said companies most likely won’t reach out to the consumer in that situation. So, if this does happen, the shopper should go to the company website in question and call them to verify. If you need to report a scam to the FBI, click here.