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Expert: Criminals looking to take advantage of consumers shopping for discounted prices

Crystal Graham
shopping for shoes online
(© New Africa – stock.adobe.com)

The holiday shopping season is here, and while there are good deals to be found, criminals are also looking to take advantage of your urge to get discounted prices.

Each year, these scams seems to be more sophisticated and harder to spot.

Virginia Tech cybercrime expert Katalin Parti shares these tips to help you avoid falling victim.

Tips to avoid holiday shopping scams

  • Avoid clicking unsolicited pop-ups, links or attachments.
  • Don’t contact the telephone number received via pop-up, text or email.
  • Never download software upon the request of an unknown individual who contacts you.
  • Never allow unknown individuals to control your computer (or other devices) remotely or physically.
  • Remember that the U.S. government will never request money via wire transfer to foreign accounts, gift/prepaid cards or crypto.
  • If you receive an email asking you to update your payment method or requesting other personal information, contact the company’s help desk directly to make sure the email is legit before you do anything else.
  • Report suspicious activities to local FBI offices and provide as much detail as possible to help counteract these sophisticated threats.

Parti says it’s important to closely review any emails being sent to you.

“Pay attention to the sender’s email address, subject line and body of the email. Misspellings, bad grammar, requests to share personal details and low-quality logos are all red flags of email phishing.”

Unfortunately, Parti says there isn’t an obvious way for the average person to be able to identify if or when a website has been compromised.

“The only potential tell-tale sign might be that the website itself doesn’t quite look ‘right.’”

To help monitor your accounts, Parti recommends enabling purchase alerts on credit cards and disabling international purchases, unless you’re going overseas. She also suggests only making purchases on your home or cellular network, never on public wi-fi.

“Don’t save your credit card information on retail sites,” said Parti. “If possible, use a third-party payment method like Apple Pay, Google Wallet or PayPal.”

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.