NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – As the holiday season approaches, Scott Augenbaum will shop from the comfort of his couch.
“Most men, including myself, we don’t like to go to the mall. So what do we do? We shop online,” Augenbaum said. “The bad guys know that, so now the bad guys are starting to prey on the consumers.”
A longtime special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Nashville, Augenbaum knows there’s a significant spike in scams around the holidays.
“You do not have to become a victim in a majority of these matters,” Augenbaum said. “Almost 90 percent of it could’ve been prevented by using some good common sense.”
Here’s Augenbaum’s list of “Dos and Don’ts” to prevent yourself from becoming a victim:
Think before you click
“In mid-December, you get an e-mail from Amazon saying that your package has been delayed in shipping,” Augenbaum described. “How many of us have a package that we’re waiting for?”
Don’t be fooled
Augenbaum said the scammers want you to click a link that can install malicious software on your computer and compromise your personal information.
It may also try to get you to log onto a fake website that appears to be the real deal.
“When we think we’re logging onto the site, the bad guys are stealing our username and password,” Augenbaum said.
The solution is simple.
Augenbaum said do not open any unsolicited e-mails or click on the links provided in them.
Stick only to reputable sites
If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Augenbaum suggested steering clear of unfamiliar sites that offer unrealistic discounts on brand name merchandise or gift cards as an incentive to purchase a product.
“It is very, very easy for the bad guys to put up a phony web store where you’re going to enter in your information,” Augenbaum explained.
That could leave you out money, but could also compromise your personal information.
Augenbaum said you should use a search engine like Google or Bing to search the name of the store, but add in the word “scam.”
A potential victim will likely leave a searchable review to prevent other people from getting scammed.
Ditch the debit card
Shopping online? Use your credit credit.
“Credit card offers a lot more protections than the traditional debit card,” Augenbaum explained.
“If your credit card gets compromised, you’re really not out that much. If your debit card gets compromised, the money goes out of your bank account.”
Be careful selling items on the internet
Are you planning to sell your stuff online for some quick holiday cash?
“Meet in a public place and do your research,” Augenbaum suggested.
“If you were selling anything on Craigslist, don’t let them come to your house. We have seen actual bad guys really targeting individuals who are selling high end merchandise.”
Many local police departments provide safe spots in their parking lots for the exchange of items sold online.
Report suspected fraud
Consumers who suspect they’ve been victimized should immediately contact their financial institution as well as local law enforcement.
The FBI also encourages the victim to file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center regardless of dollar amount lost, and provide all relevant information regarding the complaint.