As New Yorkers begin the 2018 holiday shopping season, the State Division of Consumer Protection released a list on Nov. 20 with alerts warning consumers to be cautious for potential scammers looking to steal people’s personal information.
The list offers consumers advice, especially for shopping Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, which ended Nov. 26.
New Yorkers have claimed total losses of $88.6 million resulting from cyber-related crimes, according to the FBI’s 2017 Internet Crime Report.
“The number one thing to do is make sure you buy from reputable sites,” University Assistant Chief of Police Eric Olsen said. “Sometimes there are sites that people tend to gravitate to because of the price. The reputable sites have a higher level of security and most importantly they can be held accountable.”
To prevent identity theft, the State Division of Consumer Protection recommends that shoppers check that their transactions occur over a secure connection. They also advise looking at the website’s URL — if the site begins with “https” instead of “http,” it means that communication is encrypted, and therefore more secure.
Olsen pointed out that there are many scam websites on the internet that send advertisements to people’s email addresses. To verify if a website is reputable, Olsen recommends to hover over the email’s sender and look closely at the address to see where it is from. Some email accounts have scam readers that can detect spam websites and keep them away from inboxes. Gmail, for instance, allows users to set filters to sort incoming mail, including spam.
“There’s so many ways to hide your identity on the internet and make it hard to track down. [Cyber criminals] will set up sites so that you can’t determine who put up that site, and you’re not able to track it down to a person,” Olsen said.
The Division of Consumer of Protection also said people should be cautious about gift cards. In the same report, they advised consumers to always read the fine print on their cards and check to see if they contain any hidden fees or use restrictions. They also recommend that shoppers check to see if the gift card’s packaging is intact. Consumers should be wary about buying gift cards from third party sellers or online auctions.
The release said not to purchase things with or do anything regarding personal banking on public computers or public Wi-Fi. Public computers may contain malicious software and identity thieves have the ability to intercept traffic on public wireless networks and steal credit card information or other data.