How to avoid online holiday scammers

Investigators

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Online shopping scams account for nearly half of all scams reported to the Better Business Bureau during the holiday season.

Now, with supply chain shortages making it tougher to get the gifts you want, analysts believe those online scams are going to multiply even more.

For most of us, online shopping is a great convenience, especially this time of year.

“We got most of our shopping done online,” said Raleigh resident Jamie Schultz.

Online shopping can be full of pitfalls because scammers try to trick you in various ways.

“You want to make sure you’re dealing with a trustworthy business,” said the BBB’s Alyssa Parker. “Fake websites have increased exponentially.”

If it’s a website unknown to you, there are several steps you need to take to protect yourself.

  • Research the site before you buy
  • Check online reviews
  • Look for a URL that shows it’s secure

The “S” at the end of HTTP and a lock Icon in the URL shows the website has a certificate guaranteeing it’s secure.

Sometimes, people like shopper Joy Oliver use social media to sniff out deals.

“Being on social media and knowing where other people are shopping helps,” she said.

But Parker warns you must be leery of social media messages saying they have the hard-to-get item.

“If you’re getting unsolicited messages saying they have a hard-to-get items, it’s a red flag,” she said. “If they say they have a hard-to-get item, how did they get it?”

Because scammers know many of us are receiving packages this time of year, they’ll send emails with a fake tracking number hoping you’ll bite. Those emails have malicious links telling you to click on them to track your recently ordered merchandise.

You need to verify that number.

“Go to the carrier’s website and put in the tracking number to the website directly,” said Paker. “Do not click on any links in emails.”

If the tracking number you entered is fake, the carrier’s database will reject it.

The BBB has a guide to safe online shopping which you can access here.

The federal government’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency also has a safe shopping guide.

CISA also offers a downloadable set of one-page brochures you can print out to remind you of the steps you need to take to shop safely or to secure your devices.

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