Crime

How to protect yourself from shopping scams during the holiday season

An online shopper searches different sites Dec. 12, 2016, from Miami. Unfortunately, there’s no time like the holidays for fraud. Online shopping is convenient and popular, for shoppers and scammers alike. Experts suggest restricting your purchases to reputable vendors, and being wary of look-alike websites, where the name of a well-known brand is slightly off. Also, don’t click on emails and links from unfamiliar senders, and make payments only on secure sites indicated by a lock symbol or ‘https’ in the web address.
An online shopper searches different sites Dec. 12, 2016, from Miami. Unfortunately, there’s no time like the holidays for fraud. Online shopping is convenient and popular, for shoppers and scammers alike. Experts suggest restricting your purchases to reputable vendors, and being wary of look-alike websites, where the name of a well-known brand is slightly off. Also, don’t click on emails and links from unfamiliar senders, and make payments only on secure sites indicated by a lock symbol or ‘https’ in the web address. AP

In the spirit of giving and not getting ripped off during the holidays, I reached out to Jim Marshall, the spokesman for the Miami FBI office.

Here is his advice on what to be on the lookout for during the holiday season:

Online shopping scams: If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. Such schemes may offer brand-name merchandise at extremely low discounts or promise gift cards as a purchase incentive. Steer clear of untrustworthy sites or ads offering items at unrealistic discounts or with special coupons.

Social media scams: Beware of posts on social media sites that appear to offer vouchers or gift cards. Some may pose as holiday promotions or contests. It may even appear as if it’s from one of your friends sharing a link with you. These scams can be attempts to steal personal information.

Smartphone app scams: Be careful when downloading mobile applications. Some apps, often disguised as games and offered for free, may be designed to steal personal information. Before downloading an app from an unknown source, research the company selling it or giving it away and look for third-party reviews of the product.

Protect yourself: Here are some additional steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim of cyber fraud this holiday season.

▪ Check your credit card statement routinely.

▪ Purchase merchandise from reputable sources.

▪ Ensure a site is secure and reputable before providing your credit card number online.

▪ Beware of purchases or services that require you to pay with a gift card.

▪ Do not respond to unsolicited emails or click on any links in these emails.

If you think you have been victimized, contact your financial institution immediately and contact law enforcement. File a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.IC3.gov regardless of dollar loss.

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As many of you will remember our 42 Annual Awards Ceremony had to be rescheduled due to Hurricane Irma. The rescheduled date is Dec. 15, at the Doubletree Hotel & Miami Airport Convention Center. Our keynote speaker will be Amos Rojas, U.S. Marshal for the Southern District of Florida, and our Master of Ceremony will be Janine Stanwood, WPLG Local 10 anchor/reporter. Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz is our honorary chairman. The theme this year is “Building Bridges,” a true partnership between law enforcement and the Crime Watch communities. We are asking participants to bring a “toy” for those children who suffered under Hurricane Irma. If you are interested in participating or donating, please contact our office.

Carmen Caldwell is executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade. Send feedback and news for this column to carmen@citizenscrimewatch.org, or call her at 305-470-1670.

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