By Frank Lewis
Monday was just the kick-off of the Cyber shopping season as more and more Americans will be utilizing the internet for the Christmas shopping and as consumers shop online throughout the holiday season, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is encouraging them to protect their personal information and avoid scams online.
“It’s a busy time of year, but it’s important not to let your guard down when it comes to identity theft and fraud prevention,” DeWine said. “We encourage people to check out the websites they’re using before entering payment information, to be careful about the type of payment they use when shopping online, and to watch for signs of a scam.”
Almost half of holiday shopping (browsing and buying) will occur online this year and to avoid scams while shopping online, DeWine is offering consumers the following recommendations:
- Install updates on your devices before shopping. Installing updates on your phone, tablet, computer, or other electronic devices can add new security patches and critical files, so make sure your apps, anti-virus software, operating systems, and other important programs are up to date before entering payment information. Remember to download or install updates only from the official app provider.
- Review complaints against online sellers. Check for consumer complaints on file with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and Better Business Bureau. Also use a search engine to type the name of the company or website along with terms such as “complaint,” “scam,” or “review.” If you find mostly negative information, or if you find no information at all, be skeptical. Don’t enter any personal information if a website seems less than credible.
- Use a secure Internet connection. Before entering a credit card number or other personal information, be sure the web address begins with “https” instead of “http.” The “s” indicates a secure connection. Also, do not use free, public Wi-Fi to log in to your bank accounts or to enter your credit card or other financial account information.
- Pay with a credit card. When you pay with a credit card, you generally have stronger protections against fraudulent charges. Be sure to save documentation, such as invoices and confirmation emails, to compare them against your credit card statements. If you find any unusual activity or unauthorized purchases, report it to your credit card provider immediately. Also, be suspicious of any sellers that require you to pay via wire transfer or prepaid money card. These are preferred payment methods for scam artists, because it is difficult to recover or trace the money once it’s sent.
- Don’t respond to pop-up messages. Some pop-up messages are placed by scam artists hoping to obtain your money or personal information. For example, in one version of the “tech support scam,” you receive a pop-up message from someone who claims to represent your computer company and says your device has been infected with a virus. The message prompts you to call for more information. Eventually a representative asks you for payment information or access to your computer to help fix the problem. Even if it sounds legitimate, it’s actually a scam.
In October, DeWine announced a new cybersecurity awareness campaign to help Ohioans avoid identity theft and cyber fraud. The grant-funded program includes cybersecurity messages that are being displayed in public transit systems and made available for libraries and schools throughout Ohio. It also includes community education about online security and privacy.
Consumers who want to learn more about cybersecurity or report a potential scam should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or 800-282-0515.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.