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Online Buyer Beware

With more consumers turning to the convenience of online shopping, it’s important to understand the potential for online scams, fraud, and theft. With Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Boxing Day sales coming up, there are great deals to be had. However, while official retailer shopping websites are safe and secure, it’s important to know how to recognize an online scam or fraudulent website, and how to keep your personal information secure so you don’t become a victim of
a cybercrime.

What is cybercrime?

Cybercrime is any scam or fraudulent activity that occurs online or involves an online component. For example, purchasing a product or service from a fraudulent website, using a stolen credit card to purchase items online, or using someone else’s personal information for online purchases or other criminal activity.

Unfortunately, victims of cybercrime may not know they have fallen victim to a cybercrime until much later. This is why it’s crucial to always check your bank and credit card statements and reports and use complex passwords to protect your personal information.

Holiday shopping scams by the numbers

  • In December 2018:
  • Calgarians lost approximately $1.8 million to various online scams that includes a reported loss of approximately $359,000 to identity theft.
  • The most common type of online fraud involved using stolen credit cards to make online purchases, resulting in a loss of approximately $98,000 for Calgarians. 

Here’s how to protect your personal and financial information this holiday shopping season:

Never shop or bank on public Wi-Fi. Do not access or input sensitive, personal, or financial information while using a public network as you don’t know who else has access to that network. For your Wi-Fi to be secure, it should be password protected.

Only shop or bank on your own devices and update your antivirus software. Always keep your antivirus, operating systems, and Web browsers up-to-date and ensure that your firewall is active. Software that isn’t updated is more vulnerable to viruses and malware.

Look for the lock symbol in your browser. Ensure you have a secure connection by always making sure there is a lock symbol in the address bar of your browser or that the URL begins with ‘https’ (s is for secure).

Watch out for phishing or scam emails. Phishing emails can look legitimate and often ask you to report a problem with a purchase you haven’t made, validate an account you haven’t created, or threaten some type of action. Never click on the links in these emails. Verify the request by contacting the company directly before taking any other action.

Opt-in to two-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication provides an added layer of security when logging in to an account. Once you opt in to this feature, every time you log in, you are required to provide information only you have access to or a confirmation code that is sent to your phone.

Keep your devices locked. Make sure all mobile devices and computers have a password to prevent other people from logging on to them if your phone is lost or stolen.

Check your bank statements for fraudulent activity. Check your bank statements regularly and report any fraudulent activity to your financial institution immediately. If you’ve suffered a loss or have been the victim of a threat, you should also report it to the Calgary Police Service.

If it is too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers will try to take advantage of your good nature and generosity during the holiday season by using high-pressure tactics. If something doesn’t feel right or a transaction doesn’t seem fair, it’s probably a scam.

I hope these tips help to ensure a safe and secure online holiday shopping experience for you. On behalf of the Calgary Police Service, I’d like to wish you a safe and happy holiday season!

Mark Neufeld is the Chief Constable of the Calgary Police Service.  

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