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Scam-proofing your holiday online shopping for Cyber Monday

Posted at 12:39 PM, Nov 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-30 12:39:03-05

TAMPA, Fla. — With more people choosing to do their holiday shopping online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, law enforcement agencies across the country are warning consumers about scams that could cost shoppers their hard-earned money this holiday season.

The Hillsborough County State Attorney's office near Tampa, Florida, says consumers should keep an eye out for these scams:

Copycat Websites

Scammers are better than ever at creating "phishing" websites — fake websites or emails that look close to the real thing, tricking victims into giving up personal information or credit card numbers.

"These aren't the scams that we saw ten or twenty years ago, where it was the 'Nigerian prince' email," Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren said. "They have become a lot more sophisticated and a lot harder to detect."

Phishing scams have increased by almost 65% since 2019, according to the Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office. The office also says to watch for emails advertising fake credit card "reward points," seasonal discounts or websites nearly identical to everyday services that lure victims in with a false sense of security.

Warren's office said to double-check any email addresses or hyperlinks before clicking on them, as criminals work hard to make their fake emails and websites look like the real thing.

Internet Auction Fraud

Sometimes, what's for sale online isn't always what it appears to be, Warren says.

Often times fraudulent items for sale on auction sites are often paired with "non-delivery" fraud — when a consumer pays for something but never receives it.

Warren's office suggests checking whether the seller has good reviews and comments from past customers.

To help consumers get money back in the event of a problem, Warren says to use credit cards or secure online services like PayPal, and do not use wire transfers or debit cards. Consumers should also never share their bank accounts or routing numbers with online sellers

Fake Gift Market Tickets

Con artists are also creating fake event pages, social media posts, and emails to confuse gift market attendees into sharing their credit card information.

"It's a real event, but the tickets they're selling you are not actually real," Warren said. "So you need to make sure you know what you're buying and who you're buying it from."

Warren recommends only going to an official event website and using a credit card to buy things. That way, victims can file a claim with the credit card company if anything turns out to be illegitimate.

This story was originally published by Lauren Rozyla on WFTS in Tampa, Florida.