Good Deals on Black Friday, But Cyber Monday Brings a Risk of Financial Fraud

 Shopping in person in stores on the day after Thanksgiving, a/k/a “Black Friday,” can yield good deals on a host of holiday gifts. Good deals also are possible on Cyber Monday, the year’s busiest online shopping day, which occurs each year following the Thanksgiving weekend. But Cyber Monday also brings with it the risk of financial fraud.

On Cyber Monday, consumers sometimes lose their money, receive counterfeit merchandise, or become victims of credit card fraud.

U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Barbara L. McQuade said, “Like all technology, online shopping offers benefits and risks. Online shopping offers convenience and information for comparison shopping, but consumers should do their homework before sharing credit card information online.”

FBI Special Agent Paul M. Abbate added, “Online consumers should be extra vigilant in their Internet purchases and activity during the holiday season. The FBI and the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) see significant increases around Cyber Monday, and thereafter, in online scams. Fraud schemes are often associated with products or gift cards being sold for dramatically reduced prices; ‘one day only’ websites, offering sales on high-demand items; and ‘phishing’ e-mails, text messages, or phone calls that purport to come from established and well-known retailers, seeking shoppers to verify credit card numbers, bank accounts, or detailed personal information. These and other suspicious offers or communications are utilized by criminals as traps amidst the convenience of the online shopping environment. The FBI and IC3 (at www.ic3.gov) offer tips to help avoid being a victim of these and other cyber scams, particularly during the holiday season.”

Here are some tips the FBI suggests for protecting yourself from online fraud.

  • Purchase merchandise only from reputable sellers.
  • Obtain a physical address and phone number rather than a Post Office box and call the seller to see if the number is correct and working.
  • Send an e-mail to the seller to make sure the e-mail address is active.
  • Check with the Better Business Bureau in the seller’s area.
  • Inquire about returns and warranties.
  • Be wary of overseas sellers, who may not be subject to recourse by U.S. law enforcement.
  • Do not judge a company by its website. Impressive-looking websites can be set up quickly.
  • Use a credit card for purchases rather than a money order or personal check if your credit card company allows you to dispute charges if something goes wrong.
  • Shop around to educate yourself about the price range for the item; if the deal is too good to be true, it probably is not legitimate.

Of course, despite a consumer’s best efforts, sometimes financial fraud still occurs. A victim of an Internet crime may report it at the Internet Crime Complaint Center, known as IC3, a partnership of the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center, at www.ic3.gov. Also visit http://www.iprcenter.gov/WebsiteFraudRedFlagTipSheet_12412.pdf/view for additional information.

 Contact the author at smeyerow@optonline.net

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