Online shopping has been a norm among Americans even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Fraudsters are always looking for ways to steal money from businesses and consumers.
Then and now, e-commerce platforms are vulnerable to attacks by cybercriminals, thus consumers are at risk of becoming victims of identity theft.
During the pandemic, out of necessity, we’ve moved our lives online. Many of us work, go to school, go shopping, and enjoy a social life without leaving home. Now is the time for consumers to stay alert.
Fraudsters are getting more sophisticated at getting consumers’ personal and financial information online, according to Jeff Sakasegawa, a trust and safety expert with Sift, a fraud prevention solutions provider. He told CNBC, “COVID accelerated e-commerce to a level that’s five years before it would have been without the pandemic.”
Since everyone has a bigger digital footprint, it’s no surprise that businesses are maximizing their presence online. Sift said an entire network of fraudsters is operating underground. The digital safety community refers to it as “illicit supply chains.”
Sakasegawa noted that fraudsters are finding new ways to get personal data, such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, and bank account information, as we grow more comfortable interacting in the virtual world.
Internet criminals often use new technology with old scams to get people to give them money or share personal information. Most frauds follow some detectable patterns that will help you to recognize them.
Content abuse is pervasive
Content abusers often work together in gangs or networks. And they often form a scam economy that preys on the wants and needs of consumers.
Content abuse is the most common way that fraudsters disguise who they are, to get you, to share personal information. When you see hundreds of ads, social media postings, and branded information you may not be looking at them critically.
Fraudsters that practice content abuse hope that you see only what they want you to see. Their particular con depends on fooling you.
Fraudsters post ads for AirBnbs, jobs, vacation homes, on dating sites and all present you with all sorts of offers. Today they can use branding tools, professional-looking photography, and descriptions that may seem legitimate. Scammers try and mimic trusted brands and processes that you use all the time.
Because the coronavirus has forced so much online it’s commonplace for businesses to request your credit card information. Restaurants, gyms, and hair salons are now opening at limited capacity, you might find that they require that you hold your spot with a small deposit.
As we adjust to purchasing so many things online, it might become more common for strangers to ask for your card number, making fraud harder to detect. Here are 6 strategies that will help avoid fraudsters.
6 ways to protect yourself against credit card fraud
Trust your intuition
Don’t ignore your “spidey sense”. If something seems off, don’t click it. Do not engage. Look before you click and examine closely before you share information
2. Check suspicious URLs and/or domain names
If you get an email or encounter a website with a strange domain that ends in .zz, .info, etc. instead of .com or .org, don’t trust it. Use Whois.com or another website to check the registration information if you believe a scam is involved.
3. Directly call the business or person requesting the information
Banks, government agencies, and most retailers and other businesses will not call you and ask for personal information. If someone calls or sends you an email asking for these items. Check the number they are calling from. Always contact that institution directly. Don’t share the information. Hang up, look up the number and call them back.
The FTC suggests that fraudsters may “pretend to be someone you trust, like a government employee, a family member, or a company you do business with.” Whether you receive a text, a phone call, or an email if you didn’t expect it…investigate. Never send money or give out personal information in response to a request.
4. Use zero liability credit cards
The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA), claims you can only be held liable for up to $50 in the case of fraudulent charges.
The good news is that many card issuers guarantee zero liability as long as you report the fraud timely. The Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express and the Chase Freedom both have zero liability.
Most credit cards have significant built-in fraud protection. Other payment methods are riskier. Reloadable cards and money wiring services rarely pay you back for fraud.
5. Do online searches to research
If you are approached by a company always check them out. Google a company or product name and add words like “complaint,” “review,” or “scam.” Or do a specific search for a phrase that describes what you are trying to find out. For example, try “IRS call” or search for a phone number to see if other people have reported them as scams.
6. Sign up for free scam alerts
The FTC offers comprehensive help to all consumers. To educate you about recent scams and what fraudsters are up to you can receive info from the FTC at ftc.gov/scams.
And if you are scammed or know of a potential fraud site report it at ftc.gov/complaint. Your report can help the FTC investigate scams and bring fraudsters to justice.
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