Here’s how to avoid potential scams as holiday shopping moves increasingly online

Watch out for potential scams and fraud while shopping online this holiday season
Updated: Nov. 30, 2020 at 4:03 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Cyber Monday 2020 is poised to see the most online shopping activity ever in a single day, but with the rise in digital spending comes an increased risk scams and fraud.

According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, Adobe Analytics observed a 21.9 percent increase in online shopping activity on Black Friday — bringing the estimated total to roughly $9 billion — making it the second-highest single day of online shopping activity ever.

Monday is expected to take the number one spot over the 2019 Cyber Monday sales, with the remainder of the holiday season also seeing an increase of roughly 22 percent so far.

“The 22 percent increase in online holiday shopping means it is more important now than ever that consumers have strong password management, are on the lookout for phishing emails, and make sure they are shopping on secure websites,” said ITRC President and CEO Eva Velasquez.

Velasquez isn’t alone in urging consumers to be vigilant.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said it’s always important to pay attention and take precautions when shopping online, but this year it’s more crucial than ever.

“There’s no question that the more volume of shopping that happens online, a growing percentage of that ends up being stolen through fraud,” he said. “That’s why we urge people to be careful.”

The increase in online shopping is partially attributed to the coronavirus pandemic, and just as there are ways to reduce your risk of being exposed to COVID-19, Stein and the Federal Bureau of Investigation proposed ways online consumers can protect themselves.

  • Buy directly from a reputable website or familiar retailer
  • Verify a website is using a secure connection or encryption
  • Avoid clicking on pop-up advertisements
  • Be skeptical of promoted social media posts
  • If using a resale website or social media trading page, research the seller and verify their information
  • Avoid posts or promotions with misspellings or other errors
  • Only track orders through original confirmation emails
  • Be skeptical of unsolicited email promotions
  • Use a credit card rather than a debit card
  • Check your bank statement or credit account frequently

Phishing attacks, where potential scammers attempt to get private information through emails that appear legitimate, are a particular concern.

“No matter what people do, they should not click on any links, open any attachments, or download and files from emails or messages they are not expecting. They can lead to phishing attacks,” Velasquez said.

And Stein said he is concerned not only about online shopping, but attempts to take advantage of peoples’ generosity around the holidays.

“We have Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday and people are going to be spending and pushing billions of dollars over the internet. Just make sure that you know who you’re dealing with on the other side.”

If you do suspect something is malicious, the FBI recommends contacting your bank first to stop payment, then contacting the authorities.

In North Carolina, you can call 1 (877) NO-SCAM or file a consumer complaint online.

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