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Online Security Amidst COVID-19 Part 3: Online Shopping

Stay-at-home orders and social distancing measures have accelerated the adoption of digital technology and online platforms by the masses. From social media to video conferencing to Mobile Banking and telemedicine, these new ways to connect are not only convenient, but they’re becoming essential to everyday life.

Fraudsters and cybercriminals now have millions of potential new victims and multiple government agencies are reporting increases in this type of criminal activity. At C&N, we’ve invested in strong cyber-defense systems to protect our customers and we’ve built libraries of resources to share with you. Our goal is to help you stay informed & prepared so you can confidently enjoy the conveniences of modern technology.

In the third part of our “Safe&Secure: Online Security Amidst COVID-19” series, we’ll share some tips to protect yourself while shopping online. The Internet is a great resource when getting ready to make a new purchase. There is a trove of information available to help us choose the best product available, including reviews and price comparisons. But, thanks in part to the availability of social media platforms and the ability to create inexpensive websites very quickly, online shopping scams are evolving. The Better Business Bureau reported that in 2019, online purchasing scams were the most common type of scam reported. As online scams become more and more advanced, learning how to identify them can save you from losing your hard-earned money, or worse yet, from losing your identity.

How do online shopping scams work?

  • Fake Online Stores Steal Your Payment: some shopping scams involve opening online stores for a brief time, often selling fake branded items that looks identical to the real items. Then, after they complete several transactions, the store disappears. Sometimes, the buyer will receive the item they paid for but it will be fake. Other times, they will receive nothing at all. Clothing and jewelry, furniture and home decor, electronics, cosmetics, health and nutrition are among the most common categories of products in shopping scams. Their success comes from advertising extremely low prices and leading customers to believe they are getting a great deal. These stores often use social media to advertise, so do not trust a site just because you have seen it advertised or shared on social media.
  • Fake URLs Trick You Into Giving Up Information: some phishing websites look like a real store website and lure the customer into entering personal information at checkout. If a fraudster is successful at obtaining your personal information including name, address, phone number and credit card information, they will often sell this info on the dark web, which can be used for identity theft and fraud.

How can I prevent this from happening?

When shopping online, take note of these red flags that could indicate a scam:

  • Beware of bargain-basement prices. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • If anyone demands payment by gift cards — such as iTunes™, Google Play™, Steam™, Amazon™, pre-loaded money cards or pre-paid debit cards — it’s a scam.
  • When making online payments, only pay for items using a secure payment service—look for a URL starting with ‘https’ and a closed padlock symbol. If a site’s URL begins with http and not https, do not enter any personal information on that site.
  • Avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for up-front payment via money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, pre-loaded card or electronic currency, like Bitcoin.
  • Be cautious about buying tickets online through social media, especially from people or businesses you aren't familiar with.
  • Don’t provide more information than a retailer needs to complete a transaction. That should be only your billing information and the shipping address.

What should I do if I fall victim to an online shopping scam?

If you’ve been tricked into supplying your bank account or credit card information, here are some things you can do:

  • First, notify your bank. They can help you freeze your debit card or account to make sure no further damage is done and help you file dispute claims. Reporting what happened in a timely manner will increase your chances of recovering your losses, and will also mitigate your risk of losing even more.
  • Report what happened to the Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker at www.bbb.com/scamtracker so they can alert others.
  • If you have provided any personal identifying information like your SSN, you may become a victim of identity theft. Visit the Federal Trade Commission website at www.ftc.gov for more information on Identify threats.
  • Monitor your credit reports by going to www.annualcreditreport.com.
  • If you found a fraudulent website on Facebook™, you should let Facebook know immediately so others don’t fall prey to the same scam. You can do this at https://www.facebook.com/help/reportlinks.

Although it’s unfortunate that fraudsters are taking advantage of this global event, you can take precautions to protect yourself. The C&N team is committed to keeping you informed & prepared so that you can stay safely connected from your home or office.

For more helpful articles and information about staying safe & secure online, visit our C&N Library. Also, look for the next part of our series, “Safe&Secure: Online Security Amidst COVID-19,” to be published soon.

For up-to-date information about the COVID-19 pandemic and C&N, visit cnbankpa.com/COVID-19.