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If you think you’re safe just browsing the internet for shopping ideas, think again.
Scammers are trolling your searches to identify which products shoppers are looking for. “When you click on things, even if you don’t make a purchase, scammers have access to those tools, so they can really get a good gauge of what it is you’re looking for,” says Melissa Lanning Trumpower, the Executive Director of the Better Business Bureau’s Institute for Marketplace Trust to Yahoo Life. “They’re always looking for the most popular products to offer those up to consumers at the best price, and as we know price is the key factor to falling prey to a scam so that’s something we need to be careful about… If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If no one else has that product, and it’s a great price, just be very careful and proceed with caution.”
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The riskiest online shopping scams
So before you start shopping, make sure you have the tools and information you need to keep yourself safe and your personal information secure.
“Online purchase scams were in the top three riskiest scams for the third year in a row,” says Trumpower. “When COVID hit, then it became very clear that this was becoming even riskier because people were increasing their online presence.” Each year, her team puts together a report that identifies the riskiest scams for consumers. Trumpower said the 2020 report shows buying online continues to be one of the biggest offenders.
“When you create accounts online, use a different password for every account. That way if your password gets compromised on one account, the attacker will not be able to break into all your other accounts,” Dr. Lorrie Cranor, the Director of the CyLab Security and Privacy Institute at Carnegie Mellon University tells Yahoo Life. Dr. Cranor says some of the best ways to protect yourself and your personal information is to stick with websites and vendors you’re familiar with, do your research on those you haven’t heard of before and be smart about the way you set up your accounts. “Completely random passwords are safest, but they tend to be harder to remember. Write them down in a safe place or use a password manager program.”
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Speaking of credit cards, Trumpower says the BBB’s study reveals that some payment methods are safer than others. “Make sure that when you do enter a payment that you’re using a credit card or PayPal. Those are the two payments methods that didn’t lose as much money,” she says. “When people were using non-traceable payment methods, they were more likely to not get their money back or lose money.”
The FTC adds that credit card companies also let you dispute unauthorized charges or temporarily withhold payment when you suspect you’ve fallen victim to a scam.