Cyber Monday is a popular day for fast online deals, but it can also be a popular day for quick scams through fraudulent websites.
Tempe-based Lifelock has a few tips for consumers to make sure they’re getting the deals and not putting their credit or savings in danger.
“When we’re interacting online we see that screen in front of us and a lot of us feel like it’s similar to a television, where it’s a one-way interaction,” said Tami Nealy, senior director of corporate communications for Lifelock. “But a computer is a two-way interaction. You’re deciding where you go on the web and if you’re electing to make a purchase you’re interacting with someone you’re not seeing there. You just want to make sure it’s truly the outlet you want to interact with versus someone that’s trying to misrepresent that outlet.”
Nealy said consumers should put themselves in the driver’s seat. Physically type out the web address of the retailer, instead of clicking on links or advertisements.
“Sometimes there might be fraud servers that might send links or create advertisements and if you’re not paying attention it could take you to best B-Y-E dotcom,” Nealy said. “It might look like the same store front online with the same colors and offerings, but you’re certainly not at the correct Best Buy. You didn’t put yourself in the driver’s seat.”
When a customer loads up their cart and goes to check out on that fraudulent website they enter their name, address and credit card info just like they would on any other site, but that information is all going to the wrong source.
Shoppers should keep a close eye on that web address even as they check out. The “http” at the beginning of the web address should change to “https” during the checkout process. Nealy said that extra “S” stands for security and ensures that any data entered is encrypted until it reaches its final destination.
Whether shopping online or in stores, Nealy said a credit card is safer to use than a debit card. That way, if the card is compromised the thief is only spending against the consumer’s credit and not draining their checking or savings account.
For further protection consumers can decide ahead of time how much money they want to spend on gifts and buy a pre-paid credit card with just that amount on it.
“Maybe this holiday season you know you want to spend $200 on gifts so go out and buy a prepaid card for $200,” Nealy said. “That way when I’m out shopping, if that card is compromised I’m only out that much money or whatever is remaining. It’s not linked to my line of credit or my savings account. I’m reducing my vulnerability.”
Nealy said if someone does become a victim they should contact their local police department right away.
“You’re going to need a police report number in order to work with your bank,” Nealy said. “If the thief opened a new card in your name you’ll need that police report number to work with the credit bureaus to have it removed permanently from your credit report. Contact the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov and file a complaint online so they can understand how many consumers are exposed to these schemes.”
Finally, Nealy suggests protecting against identity theft proactively. Consumers can get free fraud alerts through their bank or major credit bureaus. They can also sign up with services like Lifelock if they don’t want to fight fraud alone.
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