SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) – The Illinois Department of Innovation & Technology is warning people to avoid scams when shopping online in the coming weeks.
Online shopping has grown significantly in popularity since 2020, and DOIT officials said Wednesday that increasing online traffic is making it much easier for cybercriminals to fool shoppers.
The National Cyber Security Alliance said people should be wary of ads encouraging them to click on links, account warnings or shopping notifications. Jennifer Rominger, DOIT security program manager, said you should also verify that you’re paying on a legitimate e-commerce site.
“Are you spelling it wrong? And indeed, maybe you don’t enter the web address because there is too much room for you to enter an error,” Rominger said. “Scammers like to create web addresses that are in close proximity to your favorite stores with only minor misspellings that are common typos that are fake websites.”
Rominger explained that it’s easier to google a website and shop from there. You can also check social media as most valid providers advertise on Facebook, Instagram and other social media sites. Rominger said people can also verify who has registered an e-commerce site before purchasing products.
You may also see more ads related to online shopping for Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Rominger noted that this is a drastic change from the past when most shops were open to large crowds early Friday morning.
“We’re seeing a big turnaround this year,” Rominger said. “Many retailers don’t do in-person Black Friday or Thursday night midnight deals. They’re closing, but they’re promoting those deals. They started online on Veterans Day.”
DOIT officials suggest using a credit card when shopping online as there are more consumer protections for credit cards if you are a victim of a scam. Rominger stressed that people should avoid pop-up ads as there might be something dangerous if they click on them.
“It would be like changing lanes at random on the freeway, not looking, driving off and buying sushi at a gas station,” Rominger said. “You know, that’s where you make a risky decision.”
She also suggested that the bank and credit card accounts should be continuously checked for unauthorized activity over the next few months. Rominger said people should also change account usernames and passwords after the end of the holiday season to avoid hackers.
“The holidays are a busy time of year for people looking to shop virtually, make travel arrangements, and give back to charities, but it’s also a busy time for cybercriminals trying to take advantage of people,” said DOIT Secretary and State CIO Jennifer Ricker. “We want to help our Illinois residents protect themselves from these malicious hackers by offering best practices to ensure they are cyber-aware this holiday season and every day.”
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