Attorney General and local cybersecurity expert offer advice on how to avoid falling for online scams during the holiday season

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – The holiday season is usually a time for family and friends to get together, but it’s also a busy season for crooks looking to get your personal information back and take your hard-earned cash . Over the years, con artists have used technology to steal from unsuspecting victims, so Attorney General Josh Stein is urging people to stay alert this holiday season.

Online shopping is a simple and convenient way for people to shop, especially during the pandemic, but it is also a simple and convenient way for crooks to take advantage of you.

“Beware of fake websites or apps that closely resemble a company or brand you know. Check the URL by looking for a lock icon and making sure it begins with “https:”. Make sure you are on a reliable and secure Wi-Fi network. While it might be easy to click the “Buy” button on your phone or laptop, entering your credit card information over a public Wi-Fi network could increase your chances of being victimized. crooks, ”said Stein.

Social media scams are also on the rise, according to the Federal Trade Commission; online scams from social networks are now the majority.

“Online shopping tops the list of complaints from consumers who have reported a scam to the FTC from social media. Many of those consumers responded to an ad they saw on social media and reported that the item they ordered never arrived. Most consumers (94%) who identified the social media service in their complaint cited Facebook or Instagram as the platform they were using, ”according to the FTC.

There are steps people can take to protect themselves from online scams that start with an ad.

“Before buying on the basis of an ad or publication, check out the company. Type its name into a search engine with words like” scam “or” complaint, “according to the FTC.

Stein suggests shopping with well-known retailers and starting on their official website rather than clicking on third-party links.

“Be very careful. It’s always best to go through a legitimate retailer that you know that comes from their website, as it’s very easy for criminals to pretend they’re Target, Walmart, or Amazon – and in fact, they’re just stealing. your money, ”he said.

When it comes to payment methods, Stein says it’s best if people use credit cards.

“Don’t pay in gift cards, this is a sure sign that you are dealing with a criminal. I do not recommend using your debit card – because once that money is out of your account it is very hard to get it back – because if you are dealing with a seller who refuses to send you what you bought then you cannot dispute the payment and get it refunded, ”he said.

David Usher is the president of CMIT Solutions, a cybersecurity company in Wilmington. He echoed some of Stein’s suggestions when it comes to avoiding pitfalls with bogus social media ads.

“What we recommend is going to the website yourself, so if you have an ad or an offer you should be able to type in the address yourself and find the same ad that way. We really recommend people not to click on links, if you have to click on a link at least hover over it – when you hover over it it will show you the address, ”he said.

In addition, Usher said that there should be some action on the part of customers to validate suppliers before placing orders from an ad found online.

“You should be able to validate this vendor – this merchant – elsewhere, because all merchants want to be found.” So if the only place you see the ad is your Facebook or Instagram, or whatever app you’re in, and you can’t find that merchant anywhere else, that should be a red flag. “, did he declare.

Tips for staying safe while shopping online:

  • Buy from known suppliers
  • Don’t click on links you don’t recognize
  • Use two-factor authentication
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
  • Do not enter personal information on websites you do not know

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