HELENA – For the first time this holiday season, the majority of consumers plan to do some of their shopping online, according to research by the National Retail Federation.
While that’s good news for online stores, it’s also good news for scammers who are creating fake shopping websites or modifying existing sites.
Marcus Meyer, an investigator with the Office of Consumer Protection, said the holiday season is a particularly busy time for online shopping scams as thieves are looking to steal credit card information.
“Scammers are looking for personal information so they modify possibly an existing website and try and use that information, try to get the personal information from the individual or charge their credit card for a purchase they never receive,” Meyer said.
According to Meyer, one of the best defenses against online scammers is for shoppers to use sites that are already familiar so it will be obvious if something is out of place. Go directly to the retailer’s website instead of searching for something specific.
“Those searches for a particular product or service…it may link them to a fraudulent site,” Meyer said.
Also, look at the top of your web browser for “https” or the lock symbol which verifies a secure connection between your computer and the retailer’s website. Be sure to look at the page and see if anything seems out of place.
What’s more, Meyer said scammers are using auction sites to sell fake gift cards.
“We see from time to time on those auction sites where they’ll sell a Target gift card or Amazon gift card at a discounted price and then you find out that it’s not the card itself,” Meyer said.
If it’s too late and you think you’ve already fallen victim to an online shopping scam, Meyer advises turning on fraud alerts for your credit, and in severe circumstances, freezing your credit entirely. You can do that here.
The Office of Consumer Protection says to continually monitor your bank statements looking for anything out of the ordinary. If you do find fraudulent charges, report them to your bank.
For more information on how to protect yourself click here.