From March 5-11, 2017, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), along with more than 100 federal, state and local agencies, consumer groups and advocacy organizations, will participate in the 19th Annual National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW). This nationally coordinated campaign is designed to inform consumers of their rights and provides them free consumer-related resources listed at NCPW.gov. T&M’s Technology Risk division, a strategic service business initiative comprised of Cyber Incident Response, Data Forensics, Information Security, and Compliance Technology Consulting, routinely advises businesses and individuals on cyber-attack prevention and recovery. In conjunction with this week’s focus on consumer protection, T&M’s industry-recognized cyber experts put together some tips on how consumers can protect themselves from falling victim to the latest hacking scams when online shopping.
Cyber criminals are persistent and constantly refine their scams. Once a scam becomes outdated, typically because of awareness, education or better industry controls, hackers quickly adapt it with emerging technologies. This constant adaptation explains the continued existence of classic fraud schemes in high tech versions. These scams typically involve a victim who is solicited with a “too good to be true” offer or an offer that purports to require an urgent response. Even though these tactics are new, the use of technology to deploy them creates a much larger victim pool. If successful, these scams can lead to the cyber criminal gaining almost instantaneous access to a victim’s funds.
As consumers perform more of their daily activities online, they need to become more aware of the exploits and vulnerabilities associated with the technology on which they depend. Unlike the local brick and mortar store fronts, online retailers are global and often out of reach of law enforcement. This means that individual consumer prudence is all the more imperative. T&M recommends taking the following precautions when making online purchases:
- Research new websites before making purchases on them. Make sure the site is security enabled, typically indicated by a “https://” in the web address.
- Treat personal information like money - valued and protected. Never provide information unless it is required, as vendors often ask for additional information but do not require it for purchase. If the information being requested doesn’t seem reasonable, make the purchase elsewhere.
- Always use a credit card over a debit card for online purchases. Credit cards are much more secure and afford consumers protection by the issuing bank. Debit cards are much like cash in that once the funds clear the bank, it is nearly impossible to recover them and their use for transactions afford cyber criminals direct access to the victim’s savings account.
For additional information, see the Federal Trade Commission’s website consumer.ftc.gov/scam-alerts where you can find educational resources about trending fraud schemes, organized by topic, along with many other useful consumer resources.