Amid the pandemic online E-commerce will be not only a way to avoid noisy crowds or deal searches but rather a target for many people. Holiday season will be among us and millions of us will be searching for those perfect gifts. Unfortunately, cyber criminals will be creating pharming websites and using many tactics to scam people. Lets review some of those tactics and review some of the threats we will all be facing.

Fake Online Stores

Pharming websites mimic the look of the real sites and sometimes use the names of well-known stores or brands. When searching for deals you may find yourself on one of these sites. Ensure you are ensuring that the site you are on is well known and utilizes a proper SSL certificate. The lock on the top browser needs to match! If you purchases from these sites you will either receive a counterfeit item or never receive an item. Use these steps to protect yourself:

  • Enter URL’s directly to ensure you go to the proper site.
  • Look out for prices that are significantly better than those you see at the established online stores. If the deal sounds too good to be true, it may be fake.
  • Be suspicious if the website resembles the one you’ve used in the past, but the website domain name or the name of the store is slightly different. For example, you may be used to shopping at Amazon, whose website address is www.amazon.com, but end up shopping at a fake website that has a similar website address, where the letter o is replaced with the number 0.
  • Type the name of the online store or its web address into a search engine to see what others have said about it. Look for terms like “fraud,” “scam,” “never again,” and “fake.”
  • Use a unique password for each of your online accounts. Can’t remember all your passwords? Consider storing them all in a password manager. Refer to yesterdays tip of the day! LastPass!
  • Use temporary credit card numbers or protected payments like PayPal. These will ensure that if for some reason your information is stolen, you can easily recover or block the attempt entirely.

Scammers on Legitimate Websites

Keep your guard up even when shopping at trusted websites. Large online stores often offer products sold by different individuals or companies that might have fraudulent intentions. Such online destinations are like real-world markets, where some sellers are more trustworthy than others. Check each seller’s reputation before placing the order. Be wary of sellers who are new to the online store or who sell items at unusually low prices. Review the online store’s policy on purchases from such third parties. When in doubt, purchase items sold directly by the online store, not by the third-party sellers that participate in its online marketplace. Using well known sites will help you not fall victim to these illegitimate sites.

Online Payments for Purchases

Regularly review your credit card statements to identify suspicious charges. If possible, enable the option to notify you by email, text, or app every time a charge is made to your credit card. If you find any suspicious activity, call your credit card company right away and report it. Avoid using debit cards whenever possible. Debit cards take money directly from your bank account; if fraud has been committed, you’ll have a much harder time getting your money back. Another option is using well-known payment services such as PayPal for online purchases, which do not require you to disclose your credit card number to the vendor. Some credit card companies will allow you to use temporary card numbers that can be enabled or disabled as needed. I suggest using these if available. Finally, consider using a gift card for online purchases.

Just because an online store has a well-designed, professional look does not mean it’s legitimate. If the website makes you uncomfortable, don’t use it. Instead, head to a well-known site you can trust or have safely used in the past. You may not find that incredible deal, but you are much more likely to end up with a legitimate product and avoid getting scammed.

During this holiday season ensure you are safe. Use these methods to ensure your purchases are legitimate, safe, and to ensure you do not fall victim to identity theft.

Can you hack it?


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