FBI Portland
Beth Anne Steele
(503) 460-8099
December 15, 2020

Oregon FBI Tech Tuesday: Building a Digital Defense Against Holiday Shopping (Part 2)

Welcome to the Oregon FBI’s Tech Tuesday segment. This week: building a digital defense against holiday shopping frauds.

As we get closer to candy crunch time, we have some more simple steps you can take to keep yourself safe. Watch for fraudsters who are trying to replace your cheer with fear. It’s called social engineering when someone uses strong emotional appeals—such as fear, relief, or extreme happiness —to rush you into a decision. The seller may tell you it’s the last item available or the price is going up soon. Feel free to walk away. Compare costs, look around, and be sure to stick with reputable, well-known dealers—not some guy who randomly sent you a message or just showed up on your social media feed.

If you are having an item shipped, keep track of what you purchased, when it is to arrive, and from where you ordered it. Get a tracking number for each shipment so you don’t forget that you paid for some item that perhaps never shows. Don’t go online until you make sure that your computer and your phone are fully up to date to make sure you aren’t susceptible to viruses and malware. Put the cold freeze on using public WiFi. If you do log on to unsecured wireless networks, you can put your private info out there for any grinch to steal.

As time runs down, gift cards are looking like a great time saver. They are popular options but watch out for sellers who say they can get you cards below-market value. Also, be wary of buying any card in a store if it looks like the security PIN on the back has been uncovered and recovered. Your best bet is to buy digital gift cards directly from the merchant online.

And, a word about passwords. Yes, they can be difficult to remember, but, no, they shouldn’t all be the same. Make sure you use long and unique passwords for the most important sites—like your email and bank account—and update the others to stronger options frequently.

And finally, a bonus tip. If you get an electronic holiday card in your inbox—don’t open it! Check to make sure you know the alleged sender, check with that person to confirm that he or she DID indeed send it, and scan the attachment for viruses before opening.

If you have been victimized by a cyber fraud, be sure to file a report at the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov or call your FBI local office.