COLORADO SPRINGS — For so many people times are tough right now and the impact of a global pandemic is only making the holidays even more complicated.
This holiday season you may decide it's safer to avoid the crowded stores and you'll want to find that special gift online. But just like you would in a store parking lot, consumer experts say you need to be aware of your surroundings because behind that gift could be a cybercriminal up to no good.
It's so easy. Black Friday and other holiday deals are just one click away on our laptops and smartphones. The good news is the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado says while there are more people shopping online this year, it appears they're doing their homework.
"We've had a 385% increase in the number of consumers visiting our website to search for retailers. So that just tells you there are that many more people searching online," said Adah Rodriguez of the BBB of Southern Colorado.
But cyber experts say not everyone will take safety measures seriously and the crooks are banking on it.
"We've seen a major surge in the deployment of malware, bad code that can intercept your online shopping," said Director of the Ohio Cyber Range Institute Dr. Richard Harknett.
BBB Scam Tracker data shows on average consumers are losing more than $100 in online shopping scams and the dollar amount continues to climb. This is why it's important to create a paper trail to help you report and detect any scams you may come across.
"We always encourage that you take a picture. Take a screenshot. Keep track of your purchase trail through your financial institution and receipts so if it does turn out to be a scam you'll have enough content to report it," said Rodriguez.
Rebound Rundown: Online shopping safety tips to avoid hackers and scammers:
Shop with reputable retailers that you know and trust
Don't shop on public wi-fi, your activity can be monitored by criminals.
Tip: Instead use a secure, password protected wifi.
Beware of amazing deals, if it's too good to be true it probably is.
Don't fall for email scams, avoid clicking unknown links.
Tip: You can do this by hovering your curser over above the link to make sure it's taking you to right web address
Make sure you're using a secure website before entering any information.
Tip: You can tell it's secure if you see a closed lock in the upper left hand corner of your browser.
Another tip is to use credit cards for your holiday shopping if you can.
Tip: Credit cards can offer extra protections against fraud that could save you some headaches later on.