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Protect yourself this holiday season

With the holiday shopping season official underway, the FBI is warning consumers to be aware of cyber criminals seeking to steal their money and their personal information.

Shoppers should be on the look-out for online shopping scams—criminals often scheme to defraud victims by offering too-good-to-be-true deals, like brand name merchandise at extremely low discounts or gift cards as an incentive to buy a product.

Consumers should also beware of social media scams, including posts on social media sites that offer vouchers or gift cards or that pose as holiday promotions or contests, and should always be careful when downloading mobile applications on your smartphone; some apps, disguised as games and offered for free, maybe be designed to steal personal information.

Those looking to make a little extra money during the holiday season should be wary of websites and online postings offering home work opportunities—they may actually become the victim of an advance fee, counterfeit, or pyramid scheme, or become an unknowing participant in criminal activity.

Here are some additional steps consumers can take to avoid becoming a victim of cyber fraud this season:

  • Check your credit card statement routinely, and ensure websites are secure and reputable before providing your credit card number;
  • Do your research to ensure the legitimacy of the individual or company you are purchasing from;
  • Beware of providing credit card information when requested through unsolicited e-mails;
  • Avoid filling out forms contained in e-mail messages that ask for personal information;
  • Never click on links contained within unsolicited e-mails;
  • Verify any requests for personal information from any business or financial institution by contacting them directly;
  • Be cautious of e-mails claiming to contain pictures in attached files, especially unsolicited e-mails—the files may contain viruses; and
  • Be leery if you are requested to act quickly or told there is an emergency (fraudsters often create a sense of urgency).

If you suspect you have been victimized, contact your financial institution immediately, contact law enforcement, and file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

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