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Beware of these 5 Black Friday online scams

11/17/2020

Wagoner County Sheriff Chris Elliott knows all of Wagoner County is trying to get a jump on that holiday shopping. Before doing so make sure you have taken steps to protect your computer from online scammers because November is prime time for holiday shopping fraud.
 
The Federal Trade Commission has identified online shopping scams as the number one category of COVID-19 related complaints. Here are a few ways criminals may try to scam you.
 
1. Sham order confirmations that could lead to identity theft
 
"We've received your order" is typically a welcome message to find in one's inbox. Sometimes, though, the sender is not someone you have done business with, but a scammer. Clicking on the fake link will lead to a request for personal/financial information that can facilitate identity theft or fraudulent purchases in your name.
 
These order confirmations can come from any number of different mainstream companies and then criminals will take advantage of the most well-known brands-Walmart, Best Buy, Amazon, ect. If it seems suspicious, go the retailer's official site, log into your account and verify that there has not been any unexpected activity.
 
2. Bogus shipping notices: "Your package is running late"
 
Another popular scam is you will receive what seems to be a FedEx, UPS, or Postal Service email notifying you that your package is running late. The email includes a link to track the package, but it may be a scam.
 
Scammers love this one because the pandemic crush has put the major retailers and carriers in crisis mode and are training buyers to expect shipping delays. This gives the criminal an opportunity because most people are either anticipating the packages they sent or waiting anything that might be sent to them that may be delayed.
When possible, you might want to avoid shipping altogether and arrange for curbside pickup from retailers. And when you do ship, go straight to the shipper's official site for tracking info.
 
3. Cloned web sites and fake coupon links
 
Scammers will send an email or text offering a coupon link that brings you to a mock retail website whose URL is almost the same as one you have used. But if you click on that link it may be too late and your username/password and/or credit card info could be compromised.
 
One useful precaution is to take a close look at any links you receive and make sure they include "https" in their URL. Those five letters represent an encryption technology that ensures that the information that you send from your device to the web server cannot be intercepted by a third party. Also check for any subtle, easily overlooked misspellings and make sure that link you are about to click on says Walmart.com, not Wallmart.com.
 
4. Intercepted Data: make sure your Wi-Fi is secure
 
While fewer of us are using internet at local cafes and doing online shopping via public Wi-Fi networks, it is not uncommon for cyber thieves to breach and lift data from your home network as well. Consider using a VPN. A "virtual private network" scrambles the digital traffic heading to and from your computer or cellphone. As a result a VPN will basically put your data into a lockbox so the bad guys cannot access it.
 
5. Sob stories on social media: don't donate unless you know the person
 
Scams around the holidays increase and can be bogus pleas for money in the form of phony fundraising organizations or sad stories from people on GoFundMe who are asking for your money.
A few of the emotions that the criminals take advantage of are fear, hate and sympathy. As compassionate, good human beings, we respond to sympathetic pleas. Make sure you do your homework on any GoFundMe pages from strangers and verify that any fundraising links lead to legitimate charity.
 
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