MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) — More people shopping online this holiday season brings a greater risk of hackers and scammers accessing personal information, the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs is warning.
“Scam artists know when we’re going online too and when people are staying home and not going out…so that usually drives them to the internet to get whatever it is that they need so these scam artists are certainly going to try and take advantage of that,” said Carri Grube-Lybarker, the Administrator and Consumer Advocate for SC Department of Consumer Affairs.
Grube-Lybarker said Black Friday shopping had a heavy online shopping presence, and they expect Cyber Monday to be huge as well.
News13 put a poll on Facebook asking viewers how they planned to shop this holiday season.
Grube-Lybarker said there are ways to avoid falling victim to a scam.
Use a credit card or gift card
“I would say the number one tip when you’re shopping online is to use a credit card instead of a debit card,” Grube-Lybarker said. “When you use a credit card, it gives you some extra protection so if a hacker or a scammer does get your card number, you’re not out the money when you notice that a charge did not authorize has been made.”
Grube-Lybarker added that, “Or go to a store and buy gift cards if you know there are certain stores that you know you’re gonna shop online so you don’t have to put any of your personal banking information online. You’ll have that gift card as that kind of barrier in between the scammer and your bank account.”
If it’s too good to be true, it probably is
“It’s those too good to be true circumstances that we want consumers to be aware of too.,” Grube-Lybarker said. “To shop, to compare prices and if something just seems totally out of the norm, don’t click it because you likely won’t ever receive it or what you receive is not what you thought you were gonna get.”
Grube-Lybarker said to also look at products more closely because even products on popular shopping sites like Amazon and Walmart can be fake.
“They look like they’re selling a legitimate product, it looks real, there are all these amazing reviews on there and it ends up being a total and complete scam and nothing ends up ever showing up” said Bailey Parker, the Communications Director for SC Department of Consumer Affairs.
Parker said to know it’s a real product, to look into the seller of the product.
“So you can actually go to a amazon third party seller and find out how long their store has been open, if it’s been open for less than 6 months, that should be a red flag, try and find somebody that has been open longer and has a longer history of reviews and also see when the reviews have been written, if it happens that all 40 reviews on their storefront were posted yesterday, that’s a huge red flag of a scam storefront,” Parker said.
Parker added that if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is so use your best judgement.
Shop at home, with private wifi
“Making sure you’re checking out with the secure lock in the corner. Not using public wifi when you’re going to be entering in your personal information or banking information if you’re shopping online or going to any kind of site where you need a username or a password, you want to be doing that at home through a secure connection,” Grube-Lybarker said.
Do your research
“When you’re online do a simple internet search of a business or of a website and see if other consumers have had complaints or have had issues,” Grube-Lybarker said.
She said to also check website URLS closely and make sure the site has an “https.”
“So websites can be spoofed. Scammers can make it look identical to one of your favorite shopping sites or they have one word off or they put an L instead of an I,” Grube-Lybarker said.
What happens if I fell victim to a scam?
“Contact our office. Don’t be embarrassed, I mean if you think I could never fall for one of these scams, and you do and then you’re embarrassed, don’t be. We hear about it all the time and the way we are able to let others know is through the consumer reports. Even if you become a victim you could help someone else from not becoming one,” Grube-Lybarker said.
To report a scam, go to the SC Department of Consumer Affair’s website.
The site will also list what common scams are happening now.
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