KANSAS CITY, Mo — Cybersecurity experts are warning consumers of potential scams this holiday season.
Experts say more buyers are shopping online this year, and the number of vulnerable populations have gone up due to the pandemic. This creates better opportunities for scammers to take advantage of consumer holidays such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday.
Frankie Bellucci, a local technology expert, said his biggest advice is to be cognizant of public Wi-Fi.
“It’s easily spoofed. I can set up a Starbucks network and broadcast that and you may not know,” Bellucci said. “Your password, your security, when you go to your bank, when you’re going shopping, your credit card — all those things are now available to whoever is looking at your device.”
Bellucci said scamming techniques have gotten more advanced within the last five years. One wrong click could make innocent shoppers a target.
“Cyber security is sneaky — it's gotten real sneaky,” he said.
With the hustle and bustle of the holidays, more people have their guard down as well. Bellucci said a good rule of thumb is to slow down, take your time and pay attention. Protecting your password is also important.
“Keep an eye on your credit, keep an eye on your bank cards. Just be aware and use big companies,” Bellucci said. “If there's a company you want to do some business with, do they have reviews? Who has used them? Are there other places that you can buy that item?”
William Brunkhardt monitors scams for a living. He said crimes have grown this year in particular, even quadrupled, partly due to the number of vulnerable people during the pandemic. Scammers are using new methods to gain victims’ trust.
“We see dual-factor authentication, where in order for something to happen, we’ll get a six digit text code back. Well, they’ve infiltrated that too,” Brunkhardt said.
His biggest advice is to do research and backup everything.
“Dragging your mouse over some of the links that might be on the page, looking at the email address that sent you that advertisement, look and see where it was sent from,” Brunkhardt said. “I would keep track of every single purchase in real time as you can.”
To report cases of scamming, file a report online to the Federal Trade Commission, or in more serious cases, reach out to the Department of Homeland Security.
“If something just doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t right,” Brunkhardt said.