Cyber scammers out in force during holiday shopping season

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Posted at 12:23 PM, Nov 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-28 17:42:30-05

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Americans are expected to spend more than $11 billion dollars on Cyber Monday, but the chance to save could come with scary side effects.

"You're so used to getting all these deals in your inbox," said Alex Risen, who works at Phishing Box, a Lexington-based cyber security training company. "The bad guys know that's the case."

He says hackers prey on one of our greatest weaknesses: deep discounts. And their scams are becoming more sophisticated, allowing criminals to quickly gain access to our computers, money, or private information.

An example is fake emails from companies we trust, complete with fishy links.

"It could look like a missed delivery from Amazon, UPS, USPS, FedEx, all of those major carriers and deliverers you're expecting packages from," Risen said. "They know that and they might send something out that looks just like it, using their logos, using their exact email templates."

When it comes to shopping scams, there are two main types: non-delivery and non-payment.

Non-delivery happens when someone pays for goods or services, but never receives them. Non-payment impacts sellers, who ship their products but never get paid. Both scams cost Americans more than $337 million in 2021, according to the FBI.

Scammers are "really lying in wait for those opportunities," Risen said. "We don't wanna think about it. Who would do this stuff? Why would they prey on people?"

Here's how to protect your cash when you're shopping online this season:

  • Don't click any suspicious links
  • Check emails for tell-tale spelling or design mistakes
  • Examine a website's URL
  • Avoid paying with prepaid gift cards or wiring money
  • If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is

You can also test your phishing knowledge with this quiz from Phishing Box.