FBI Portland
Portland Media Office
(503) 460-8060
December 10, 2019

Tech Tuesday—Online Shopping

Welcome to the Oregon FBI’s Tech Tuesday segment. Today we look at building a digital defense as you race to finish your holiday shopping.

This just in – a red alert straight from the big guy at the North Pole: we are just two weeks away from Christmas! Are you ready?

Online shopping makes it easier for holiday season procrastinators to push present-purchasing deadlines into the danger zone. However, we have 12 days of tips to keep you shopping safely and get your gift giving done early.

Day 1 – Don’t go online until you make sure that your computer and your phone are fully up to date. Santa says you should make sure you aren’t susceptible to viruses and malware.

Day 2 – Put the cold freeze on using public WiFi. If you log on to unsecured wireless networks, you can put your private information out there for any grinch to steal.

Day 3 – Watch out for the telltale signs of a possible fraud. Did you find the perfect whatnot for a friend of family member but the seller requires that you pay using a gift card or wire transfer? That's a potential fraud indicator.

Day 4 – Mrs. Claus is a big believer in giving experiences over things, but if you are thinking of buying tickets to a concert or sporting event for that special someone, make sure you stick with a reputable seller. You might find websites or online marketplaces where people offer excellent tickets that are cheap, but know that plenty of counterfeiters may be ready to cash in on Christmas at your expense.

Day 5 – Beware non-delivery scams. Have a hot toy or blingy bauble sold out everywhere you look? You think you've hit the jackpot when you find it on a never-heard-of-before website and, as a bonus, it’s cheaper than expected! Sounds great, but be warned: if you stumbled upon a scammer trying to take advantage of your desperation, the only thing that is likely to show up in the mail is a bill.

Day 6 – Pay with a credit card when possible. You will likely have more protections than paying with your debit card or cash.

Day 7 – Buy digital gift cards directly from verified online merchants. Gift cards are a popular option to put some simple jingle jangle into your holiday shopping. However, 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 re-covered. 

Day 8 – Stay off you-know-who’s naughty list by changing your passwords. Yes, they can be difficult to remember, and 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 accounts – and update others to stronger options frequently.

Day 9 – 'Tis the season for giving, so be certain that any charitable donations you make are going to legitimate non-profits by doing some basic research. Also, keep an eye on how much of your donation goes directly to services and how much of it is gobbled up by admin and overhead costs.

Day 10 – It’s candy cane crunch time with only a few days left – don’t let stress drive you into making poor choices. Fraudsters love using social engineering techniques to trick you into making quick decisions you wouldn’t otherwise pursue. As the saying goes, if the deal sounds too good to be real, it likely is.

Day 11 – Almost there, and scammers are going down to the wire to make their sales pitch sound perfect. Beware of unsolicited emails, texts, or social media posts that promise you the chance to purchase that final needed gift. Don’t click on these links or attachments, no matter how much you want to be done with holiday shopping madness.

Day 12 – You made it with just a few days to spare. We have one final tip before you begin wrapping that pile of presents: spend a few minutes checking your bank and credit card statements for unauthorized transactions. If there’s anything suspicious, make sure you report it right away.

As always, if you have been victimized by a cyber fraud, be sure to report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.IC3.gov or call your local FBI office.

Have a great holiday everyone, and remember to shop safely.