Hurricane Ian made our area ripe for scammers who were looking to take advantage of a devastating event. If that wasn’t enough local authorities are warning you to watch out for ONLINE scammers this shopping weekend! Unfortunately it’s a big holiday for scammers.

Business’s that monitor online fraud offer some practical advice.

Suspicious links

Scammers will try anything to get you to click a malicious link.

The link could distribute malware to your device, or direct you to a fraudulent website that tricks you into giving up your personal information or passwords to your financial accounts. It could appear in an email, text message or targeted ad on social media.

Never click a link and put your username and password in something that you didn’t initiate cybersecurity experts warn. 

If you do receive a message with a potentially suspicious link while shopping, double-check the message sender’s contact information to make sure it matches the company or financial institution they claim to represent.

If you’re unsure, look for a legitimate phone number or email address and contact the company or your bank directly to request more information.

Browser extensions

Especially during the holiday shopping season, you’re likely to see an uptick in offers to download “money-saving” browser extensions.

Some are legitimate, and can help you unlock discounts or cash-back offers you might otherwise have missed. But scammers can also seize on your eagerness to find big savings by releasing fraudulent browser extensions that contain malicious software and phish your personal data.

Most Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals will be advertised up front on retailer’s websites.

Billing scams

The last thing you’ll want to hear is that some of your purchases didn’t go through and might be canceled.

That’s why scammers often pose as major retailers and contact you with an urgent message claiming an order didn’t go through, or your payment information needs updating. They could also pose as your bank, asking you to verify your information before allowing your payments to process.

Scammers typically try to create a “sense of urgency,” implying that if you don’t act immediately, there will be dire consequences — like a canceled shopping order or even a frozen bank account.

Legitimate companies rarely use that sort of intense language. If you do wish to follow up reach out to the company directly to ensure you aren’t sharing any valuable information with a third party.

Unfamiliar websites

If you’re tired of inflation-bloated prices, you’ll understandably be looking for the best shopping deals possible this weekend. That might lead you to fake websites offering deals that seem too good to be true, because they are.

As you’re scouring different websites, double-check each website’s URL to make sure it’s legitimate before entering any personal information cyber specialists warn.

Verification code scams

Multi-factor authentication is a relatively easy way to make it harder for hackers to crack your personal accounts.

But it’s not impenetrable, and scammers can get around it by sending you a phishing message posing as your bank or a major retailer and asking you to confirm a verification code to finalize your purchase.

In those cases, the scammer likely already has your log-in information and password and they need the verification code to access your online accounts.

That’s why banks and retailers typically remind you not to share your multi-factor authentication codes with anyone, and that they’ll never call you on the phone to ask for the code.

Only enter a verification code directly into a login page that you know and trust.

Playing it safe this shopping season might feel frustrating, but it’s far better than the alternative.