Online holiday spending is a bonanza for criminals


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Spending is ramping up as the holidays arrive.

The National Retail Federation estimates about $1,000 will be spent on average by shoppers looking to buy gifts this year and scammers want a piece of that action.

Traditional shopping is shifting this year, leaning to more online and that has turned into a bonanza for criminals.

Catherine Honeycutt of the Better Business Bureau of Eastern North Carolina said “online shopping scams can range, but they typically involve a fake advertisement or fake social media ad.”

The scammers will phish, sending you something like an electronic gift card in your email telling you to click a link to activate it.

Before you do anything, scrolling over the email address of the sender to see if it’s really from the merchant.

Chances are you will see some hacked email address from some account somewhere, not the .com address of the merchant.

“When you click the link, it can take you to a fake website ordering goods that aren’t real or providing payment info to a company that’s not legitimate,” said Honeycutt.

It’s easy to detect fake websites if you take a moment to check.

Check for the “S” at the end of HTTP. The “S” means it’s a secure site. Also look for a little padlock icon at the start of the URL address. The lock means it’s secure.

As a result of the pandemic, fake ads on social media are abounding.

“About 60 percent of the ads you are seeing on social media are fake,” said Hunnicutt

The security firm McAfee found cybercrime is up 12 percent since April, estimating there are 419 cyber threats per minute.

“They follow the cash and your identity is valuable, MacAfee’s Judith Bitterli told CBS News.

Since many scams start on social media, Facebook is now teaming up with the BBB to warn online shoppers. The platform is donating $75,000 worth of ad space to the BBB for ads warning consumers about retail scams.

“Our systems are constantly improving,” Facebook’s Sarah Schiff told CBS news. “We’re evolving our policies to get ahead of people trying to scam people out of money and break our rules.”

Since the start of the year, in North Carolina alone, the BBB says its had complaints of more than $100,000 lost to criminals running online purchase scams.

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