How to stay safe and shop online

Due to the coronavirus epidemic, a record number of people are expected to shop online in the U.S. on vacation – experts say there is an increased risk of online fraud falling.

Steven Merrill, head of the FBI’s Financial Crimes Division, said in a telephone interview that the agency expects cybercriminals to try to trick people looking for black Friday and cyber-Monday deals with extra work.

“Most people will be at home and they will shop online better than ever.” – He told.

Scams targeting shoppers often rely on fake sites that mimic real online stores, similar to sites that target people every year. But people in a tighter financial situation or otherwise stressed out by a pandemic are more likely to fall for them this year, Merrill said.

“One thing we could see as a result of covid, people are economically anxious and people tend to make decisions they wouldn’t normally make because circumstances are different,” he said. “People usually lose the ability to exercise due care and caution.”

The primary way to trick people into visiting such apparent sites is to send lure coupons via email, said Mieke Eoyang, a third-party cybercrime expert.

“Look for transactions that look too good to be true and that we email, instead visit the website separately and see if the transaction is actually listed on the website,” Eoyang said. “Because a lot of people will get emails that try to lure them into deals that are too good to be true.”

On November 30, 2009, a man is watching a Cyber ​​Monday ad on his laptop in Los Angeles.Robyn Beck / AFP – Getty Images file

The U.S. Cyber ​​Security and Infrastructure Agency, in a published guide outlining the basics of cyber security for online holiday shopping, stressed that shoppers “should make sure they are contacting a reputable, established vendor before sending money.”

But that doesn’t mean it’s only safe to shop on major websites and chains, ”said Jeremy Kennelly, head of analytics at Mandiant cybersecurity firm.

If a retailer doesn’t know you, it doesn’t necessarily mean to avoid shopping there, but rather to “make sure they have a local presence or some kind of touchstone that’s actually grounded,” Kennelly said.

Online retailer scam sites don’t necessarily deceive customers from just one purchase. They can also be designed to steal victims ’personal identification information for the purpose of identity theft.

“Many criminals are trying to obtain personally identifiable information we call PII from anyone. They use it to create false identities to create credit cards on behalf of others,” Merrill said.

If someone is potentially a victim of such a scam – credit card statements may be the only comment you receive – you need to take several steps to take immediate action. They can report to law enforcement, such as the FBI, call their credit card company, and follow action plans set up by victim services such as the Cyber ​​Crime Support Network.