Do Not Lose Your Identity To Online Scammers This Black Friday and Cyber Monday
Without wasting time, I will go straight into the crux of the matter: Many of you are vulnerable to online scams on Black Friday. They will be seeking to steal your gifts and groceries or money. Above these, they will also be looking to get away with your identity and credit card information. If they can take your identity, you may be in trouble not only financially, but they may use your name to commit further crimes. For example, unscrupulous tax preparers could buy your identity from these scammers, use it to file fraudulent tax returns, and leave you in trouble with the IRS.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), there were 1,4 million identity theft reports in 2020. This was an increase of 29.39% from 2019. This number only shows you that you are not safe, especially transacting online on a day when millions of Americans will be participating in the biggest ‘discount day’ of the year.
Therefore, you must be vigilant and shop safely during this Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Below, I give safety tips you can follow to stay safe.
1. Always check the name and web address of the website
Scammers are becoming cleverer by the day. Right now, they are cloning popular websites, providing a lethal trap for unsuspecting shoppers. Once you “buy” on cloned sites, they may steal your credit card information and identity. Above all, no goods will be delivered, so your money goes for nothing.
To avoid falling victim to such scammers, ensure that you double-check the name of your regular shop and web address. For example, www.amazon.com could be cloned and given the web address www.amazom.com. It will not be easy to notice such a difference when trying to catch a sale before everyone snatches it up quickly. Also, try to bookmark all your favorite online shops on all your devices.
2. Watch out for phishing emails
Phishing emails are dangerous. Their sole purpose is to entice you to click links that give away your identity and credit card information.
To get to you, scammers may send fraudulent emails claiming that there is a problem with your delivery. They may ask you to click a link to ‘fix’ the problem. But if you click it, there will be a virus that can steal your information from your computer. Therefore, do not open such emails. I understand that it may be tricky if the scammers rightly guess where you bought online. In this case, be vigilant and check the details in the email. Compare the two emails’ footers or other small details – the one you got about the complication with your order and the one you got confirming your order.
3. Watch out for imposters
Whether you are buying online or in-store, imposters will be everywhere. They may stand right outside the store and promise to take you where the real discounts are. While inside the shop, they may ask for your identity, pretending to write something down to help you. By so doing, they will get away with your identity.
While buying online, imposters may get to you through clone websites. We spoke about these above. The FTC states that there were more than 490,000 imposter scams in 2020!
4. Create strong passwords
You must avoid using a generic password for most of your accounts. This is one sure way of making yourself vulnerable to Cyber-crimes, even on secure sites. Be vigilant and don’t leave it to chance. Criminals may easily pounce on you if you do the same for your Black Friday purchase(s) online. It is recommended to create strong passwords for your online accounts, including those on shopping sites. Strong passwords may contain a combination of letters, words, and symbols. These aren’t easy to crack.
5. Avoid saving your card and financial information online
I understand that we live in a world where ‘easy’ is the way of life. We are tempted to save our credit cards information on all our shopping sites for ‘easy’ checkout the next time we are on them. Well, easy as it may sound, this leaves you vulnerable to scammers who have many ways of stealing stored information online. Some shops do not have high encryptions that can protect your personal information. This makes them an easy target for hackers who can easily steal and sell your private information.
6. Only buy from reputable sites
During Black Friday, many online shops mushroom, promising great and enticing discounts. If you get enticed and buy, you may never receive your goods. More so, such scammers may steal your personal information and identity.
The bottom line
While the Black Friday excitement is already in the air, you must ensure that the thrill does not get you to forget about taking safety precautions while purchasing your goods and gifts.
Remember, once your personal information is gone, scammers can sell it to fraudulent tax preparers who file false returns in your name, open a bank account, claim false dependents and other tax deductions. They may receive a huge refund in your name, but when the IRS starts to investigate all the shady entries in ‘your’ return, they will be coming to knock on your door, only to realize you have no idea this was happening. I do not mean to scare you, but other crimes that can be committed in your name include money laundering using accounts that identity thieves would have opened using your identity. Now, this is a huge crime, meaning your only way out is to be vigilant and be cautious this Black Friday and Cyber Monday.