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Protect yourself from online scams

 

Last updated 5/7/2020 at 2:51pm



Rebecca Gramuglia

Special to Village News

Whether their favorite store is temporarily closed or they prefer to shop from the comfort of their own home, many Americans have gravitated toward online shopping during the coronavirus pandemic.

And according to a recent survey from TopCashback.com, 60% of Americans are shopping online more than they were a month ago.

To help residents safely navigate online shopping, use these five tips.

Steer clear of suspicious websites

Even if they’re simply shopping for household essentials or face masks, residents may come across a variety of sites; however, if they see one that seems questionable, has an outdated design or has multiple pop-up windows, it may not be a legitimate retailer. Refrain from making any purchases on these types of sites to ensure that their personal information does not get compromised.

Verify the URL. Even if the website they’re shopping on looks and seems OK, be sure to check for either a little padlock icon on the left side of the search bar or if the URL says “https://” emphasis on the “s.” This layer of security is essential when shopping online and sharing personal information. If the site is not secured or the URL only features, “http://,” their browser may point it out in the search bar.

Avoid unsecured networks and devices

Take all the steps to protect themselves when accessing personal information and shopping online, and be sure to use security software and firewalls to keep that information secure. And while sitting at a coffee shop on a laptop is temporarily out of the question, residents should still avoid accessible public Wi-Fi networks to make sure no one can potentially access their information. An easy way to keep personal information secure is to regularly change their passwords, usually every three to six months, to reduce the chances of someone accessing their data, profiles, etc.

Use protected payment methods

Online safety not only means using secure sites and networks, but it also means that residents should use a secure method of payment when making purchases online. By paying with a credit card or PayPal, they are adding a layer of consumer protection that can guard against fraud; however, residents should not get a false sense of security. If they notice any suspicious activity on their credit card, contact the provider immediately.

Beware of phishing emails.

Especially with more Americans doing their shopping online during this time, it’s inevitable that their inboxes may get flooded with promotional emails. However, they should be wary of any enticing emails from an unfamiliar sender in their inbox. Residents can avoid the most common type of fraud by deleting any suspicious emails and even if it looks like it could be a legitimate promotion, know that criminals use this scheme to get them to provide personal information.

Residents can also get a virus on their computer simply by opening the email, so be cautious. In addition to unfamiliar emails, be on the lookout for phishing emails disguised as if they came directly from family members, co-workers, etc. If the message looks strange, double-check the sender address to see if it is actually from that person. More often than not, a resident’s gut feeling is usually right, so they should delete the message immediately if it is actually not from a person they know.

Look out for price gouging scams

Do not fall for price-gouged goods like health and medical supplies. If residents notice an unusually high markup on an item like hand sanitizer online, do not buy it – instead, learn more about how to report it via https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.

Rebecca Gramuglia is a consumer expert at TopCashback.com.

 

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