Hackers targeting online shoppers even more because of pandemic

Scammers know many people will do their holiday shopping online to avoid large crowds and social distance this year.

Digital engineers said phishing tactics are more convincing now than ever and every email should be vetted.

Hackers are opportunistic and what better time to trick people than when they’re vulnerable, bored in their own homes, and likely looking for a good deal because the pandemic hit their finances.

"[Hackers] are following the holiday shopping season just like we’re getting ready for it," Check Point engineer Kierk Sanderlin said.

According to his stats, phishing, or a fraudulent attempt at obtaining sensitive data such as passwords, or credit card information, is already up 80% from October.

"It was one in 11,000 emails being malicious. If you look now in November, it's one in 826 emails being malicious," he said.

With only 16 percent of people expected to do their holiday shopping in person, according to Drive Research, engineers expect the crime will continue online.

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A phishing example from Checkpoint Software shows what looks like a Pandora jewelry ad for a “Christmas Early Bird Sale," but 90 percent off jewelry at just $7.99 sounds a little too good.

To protect yourself, check who the email is from, or domain name for typos. That could be a clear indication of distant fraud.

"You’re going to have people from all over the world looking to monetize the huge amount of spending that’s going to occur in the next several weeks," Sanderlin said.

That’s another reason to look up the supposed company website on your own.

For example, a quick Google search of Pandora’s actual website indicates there is no 90% off sale.

Phishing isn’t limited to email, deceiving texts aim at your wallet as well.

If an email or text includes an urgent request for money and appears to be from your bank or utility provider, ignore the email and reach out to the company directly.

Another tip—monitor your accounts. Most banks offer alerts for suspicious activity and it doesn’t hurt to have an extra set of verified eyes looking over things.

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