Security Articles & Alerts

CISA Release Date: August 05, 2020
CISA, Revision Date: November 18, 2019

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Internet Crime Complaint Center (I3C) has released an alert on a recent increase in online shopping scams. The scams direct victims to fraudulent websites via ads on social media platforms and popular online search engines’ shopping pages. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) encourages users and consumers to be diligent and be on alert for indicators of fraud and tips to avoid being victimized, as well as CISA’s tip on Shopping Safely Online.

Why do online shoppers have to take special precautions?

The internet offers convenience not available from other shopping outlets. You can search for items from multiple vendors, compare prices with a few mouse clicks, and make purchases from your home. However, the internet is also convenient for attackers, giving them multiple ways to access the personal and financial information of unsuspecting shoppers. Attackers who are able to obtain this information may use it for their own financial gain, either by making purchases themselves or by selling the information to someone else.

How can you protect yourself?

  • Do business with reputable vendors – Before providing any personal or financial information, make sure that you are interacting with a reputable, established vendor. Some attackers may try to trick you by creating malicious websites that appear to be legitimate, so you should verify the legitimacy before supplying any information.
  • Make sure your information is being encrypted – Many sites use secure sockets layer to encrypt information. Indications that your information will be encrypted include a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) that begins with “https:” instead of “http:” and a padlock icon. If the padlock is closed, the information is encrypted. The location of the icon varies by browser; for example, it may be to the right of the address bar or at the bottom of the window. Some attackers try to trick users by adding a fake padlock icon, so make sure that the icon is in the appropriate location for your browser.
  • Be wary of emails requesting information – Attackers may attempt to gather information by sending emails requesting that you confirm purchase or account information. Legitimate businesses will not solicit this type of information through email. Do not provide sensitive information through email. If you receive an unsolicited email from a business, instead of clicking on the provided link, directly log on to the authentic website by typing the address yourself.
  • Use a credit card – There are laws to limit your liability for fraudulent credit card charges, but you may not have the same level of protection for your debit cards. Additionally, debit cards draw money directly from bank accounts, unauthorized charges could leave you with insufficient funds to pay other bills. You can minimize potential damage by using a single, low-limit credit card to make all of your online purchases. Also, use a credit card when using a payment gateway such as PayPal, Google Wallet, or Apple Pay.
  • Check your statements – Keep a record of your purchases and copies of confirmation pages, and compare them to your bank statements. If there is a discrepancy, report it immediately.

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