FBI tips for shopping online this holiday season

DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) – Online shopping can be an easy and convenient option during the holiday season. Whether by phone or laptop, purchases can be made with the click of a button, but this time of year is also a popular time for scammers looking for their next big payday.

“Anyone and everyone can and has been scammed,” said Dean Neubauer, a Special Agent with the FBI.

Neubauer says online scams have become more sophisticated over the years, with scammers using trust and believability to defraud people.

“They’ll start getting more sophisticated in the emails that they are sending where it’s one that you might expect and you might click on,” he said.

There are many ways people can protect themselves online. That includes looking for character substitutions in emails and websites.

“Make sure it’s a reputable site. There are resources out to find out like ‘Is this site legit? Is it not?” Neubauer said,

If you’re putting in credit card information, ensure the website is encrypted, showing a lock icon next to the domain.

If you’re expecting a package, Neubauer says to take caution with texts and emails regarding tracking numbers.

“I would go directly to that retailer’s website and log in if you’re curious about the tracking information because it could be something like ‘oh there’s been a delay in the shipment of your item click here to see if there’s faster options available.’ Then they’ll try to redirect the shipment or say ‘oh there’s a fee for you to do this.”

The FBI also says people can protect themselves with the following tips:

• Steer clear of untrustworthy sites that end in .club or .top and offer items at

unrealistic discounts or with special coupons.

• Look for “https” in the URL before entering your credit card information.

• Always get a tracking number for items purchased.

• Don’t open any unsolicited emails or click on any links if you do open the email.

• Avoid filling out forms in unsolicited emails that ask for personal information.

• Say no to robocalls, hang up on automated messages

Neubauer says some major banks and credit card companies offer secure or one-time credit card numbers that you can use for online purchases and to ensure your information isn’t compromised.

“You can go and have your bank generate a one-time number. It still charges to your normal account and they pay it off normally but that number is only valid for use for one time so even if it’s stolen, you can’t be victimized. It just comes back as an invalid card number,” he said.

Anyone can be a victim of cyber scams.

“They’re not just going after senior citizens and older people, but also the younger people as well. The dollar amounts may change, the tactics may change but they’re going after everyone.”

If you believe you’ve been scammed, you’re encouraged to file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center here.

Copyright 2021 KWQC. All rights reserved.