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In the past few years, retailers have seen a trend in how their customers shopped for the holidays. More and more people have grown weary of standing in the cold or elbowing through thousands of shoppers to buy this year’s hot toy. Savvy shoppers have increasingly opted to stay home in their pajamas and find great deals online.

That’s led to the rise in Cyber Monday. Once the holiday chaos of Black Friday is out of the way, the following Monday is a time to pop over to the internet and see what sales are taking place to finish (or start!) your shopping.

Unfortunately, just like Black Friday, Cyber Monday is a favorite holiday for identity thieves, scammers and hackers. In order to reduce your risk of falling victim to the crime, you have to take some steps to secure your identity.

1. Know your antivirus software – Antivirus software has come a long way since the early days of trying to block malicious computer threats. Unfortunately, so have the tools that cybercriminals use to steal your money, your identity, your computer and more. A comprehensive security suite can now offer you protection from ransomware, trojans, worms, phishing scams, keyloggers and so much more. Many of them now include parental control tools, which is great if you have kids, as well as VPNs and tracking blockers for private browsing online.

Make sure your security suite is installed, updated and ready to protect you before you start entering your credit card details and your shipping address online.

2. Know your payment methods – Whether you’re using credit cards, debit cards, online payment platforms like PayPal, or gift cards, it’s important to keep up with which method you used on which website. That way, if there’s suspicious activity on your card or account later, you can trace it back to which site you may have used.

It’s also a good idea to know ahead of time what kinds of consumer protection are in place in case of fraud. Will your credit card company stand up for you if someone steals your information or racks up extra charges? Will they protect you if the website you used was a scam and they never send your purchases? Find out the rules and regulations—as well as what kinds of money-saving deals and discounts, if any—are in place before you use it.

3. Know what you’re clicking – Fake websites, copycat websites that look like real retailers’ sites, and bogus ads that only lead to click-revenue are the bane of every shopper’s existence at this time of year. Look for the site’s HTTPS designation before you enter any payment details, and make sure this is a reputable company before you pay for anything. A quick Google search for the name of the company or a check of the BBB’s scam tracker can tell you if there are any dissatisfied customers out there.


Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

Read next: “I’ve Hacked Your Password” Scam

Ah, summer! What’s better than longer days, warmer temps and maybe a quick out-of-town getaway to enjoy the season? Why, a budding romance, of course!

Unfortunately, for too many victims, that newfound romantic interest might be something other than he or she seems. Romance scams are some of the cruelest, costliest forms of fraud. Preying on people’s loneliness and hope, the perpetrators have no qualms about not just stealing your money, but also leaving you broken-hearted, embarrassed and ashamed.

With the summer months in full swing, there’s no time like the present to identify the telltale signs of a possible scam and develop some strong self-protection skills:

1. The Out-of-Towner Love Interest – It seems like many romance scammers have one unifying feature: they work out of town or in career fields that keep them isolated. It might be on an offshore oil rig, a deep-sea fisherman, a deployed active duty service member, or any other plausible excuse to not be available to talk or message all the time. If you meet someone online with one of these specific or similar job areas, proceed with caution because that’s a huge red flag

2. The Struggling Widow – Many online scammers rely on the sob story to get money out of their victims. A typical scenario is a single parent with a wonderful child, as this allows them the chance to very quickly ask their victim for money. “My son’s computer broke and I’m away at sea, he’s going to fail the school year and lose his scholarship if he doesn’t turn in this paper…” Who would refuse to help a dedicated student while his parent is out of town? Again, romance scammers often rely on the widow/widower story to snare their marks

3. The Overly Zealous Significant Other – “I’ve never felt this way before… I hope I don’t scare you off, but I think I want to spend the rest of my life with you.” Romance scammers often take a long time to groom their victims, keeping the charade going for months before starting to cheat them. During that time, scammers may even work in shifts to ply their victims with sweet talk, text messages filled with hearts and flowers and more. By escalating the relationship quickly, the victim already feels invested in it. Refusing to give money to a desperate person after they’ve professed their love and started talking about marriage? Inconceivable

4. And Finally, Show Me the Money – When a romance scammer finally does come around to asking for money, there’s ALWAYS a reason. “I hate to ask you this, please feel free to say no…” but my mother’s utilities are about to be shut off due to an error at the bank and I’m away at sea, or our son’s tuition check didn’t clear and they’re going to kick him out of school right here at exam time if it’s not paid. Other, more sophisticated tactics even involve the scammer sending the victim a check or granting them access to their bank accounts, only to end up costing the victim money when they go back on their promise. Many victims have also reported being told to send the money via untraceable methods like Western Union despite supposedly knowing this person.

Here’s the real clincher about romance scams: far too many victims keep it going rather than admit—to others or themselves—that this was all a giant lie. There have even been reports of victims becoming part of the scam, helping to launder money or bilk others for funds. Do NOT hesitate to cut off any relationship that starts to smell like a fraud.

If you are ever asked for money from someone online, stop and think: why would this person need me to help? Where are the other people this individual could turn to? Then, try this: refuse. Be firm about not paying, no matter what excuse the other party gives, and see if it leads to the end of the relationship. Any legitimate love interest would immediately backtrack and apologize, but a scammer will double down with harsh comments, pleas for help, and any other statement to get the money out of you. Don’t fall for it, and don’t let love turn into heartache and loss by giving in.


Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

If you’ve used the internet for any amount of time, there’s a good chance you’ve received plenty of phishing emails. Nigerian prince emails, foreign lottery winner emails and even “if you don’t pay the ransom, you’ll never see your son again” emails, all of which are designed to get you to hand over your identifying information, your money or both.

But now that phishing emails so widely recognized for the scams they are, savvy thieves have a new trick up their sleeves: phishing websites. How do these work? They masquerade as the real deal, tricking you into entering your credit card info, downloading a harmful software, filling out the registration form with your sensitive data or some other similar tactic.

Try this example: You head over to Amaz0n.com or PayPaI (notice the zero instead of an O and a capital letter I instead of a lowercase l) and enter all of your information, update your payment information or bank account, verify your account identity or some other mechanism for stealing from you. You never knew you weren’t on the correct site and the scammers stole everything.

“But I’m never going to type A M A Z (zero) N,” you might be thinking, and you’re probably correct. The hackers know that too, so that’s not how they target you. Instead, they get you to click a link in an email, a social media post or ad, a text message, or some other form of communication. You see what you think is an email from Amazon, either offering you some incredible deal or telling you there’s a problem with your recent order, and you click the link provided in the very professional-looking message. The link redirects to a fake website, though, even though the email domain name and the web address look close enough to the real thing to fool anyone who isn’t paying attention.

Fortunately, avoiding fake websites is almost as easy as ignoring those pleas for help from deposed Nigerian royalty.

  1. Develop the habit of NEVER verifying your identity or account information to someone who contacts you. Whether it’s by phone, email or a website, do not click or enter any personal data or payment details if you didn’t type in the web address yourself. If you think there could actually be a problem due to a message you received, get out of that message altogether and go to the website yourself, typing in the web address (you know, to avoid typing a zero instead of a letter O!).
  2. Check the website designation before doing anything. Even if you’re shopping on your favorite retail site or uploading photos to your favorite social media platform, give a quick glance at the top of the screen. Secure sites will have an HTTPS designation before the “Amazon.com” instead of HTTP. If the S is missing, your data should be missing, too!
  3. Check with the entity directly. Most major websites have had copycats steal their logos and try to convince unsuspecting users to click over to the fake site. Amazon and PayPal are just two common ones, but iTunes, Facebook, Citibank and other major financial providers, and other highly visible names also have similar fake sites.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.