If fraudsters get their way in how they finish out 2022, Americans will have lost close to $372 million dollars to those cyber creeps. And it’s likely to go higher. For the last two years, the median amount of money stolen from people in online shopping fraud cases has risen every quarter.
Using data from the Federal Trade Commission, All About Cookies – an informational website devoted to helping people with online privacy, identity theft prevention, antivirus protection, and digital security – says that the post-holiday forecast is even scarier because as consumers have moved a lot of their purchasing power online, it’s making them more susceptible to having their money and identity stolen by cyberthieves.
If you live in Virginia or West Virginia, sorry to break the news, but…
Overall, the District of Columbia, Delaware, and New Hampshire are the states with the highest incidence of online fraud, but once St. Nick is out of sight, things change dramatically.
The states where online shopping fraud increases the most after the holidays shake out like this:
Virginia: 27.8% increase in fraud
West Virginia: 18.7%
Washington State: 12.9%
New Mexico: 12.1%
South Carolina: 10.8%
What to keep an eye out for
According to the FBI, the prevailing champions of holiday scams are non-delivery and non-payment schemes. A non-delivery scam is where a buyer pays for goods or services they find online, but then those items never show up. A non-payment scam involves goods or services being shipped to a consumer/buyer, but the seller is never paid.
Two other scams that frequently pop up between Christmas and New Year are auction fraud, a scam where a product is misrepresented on an auction site, and gift card fraud, when a seller asks a consumer to pay with a prepaid or gift card.
Steps you can take to protect yourself
All About Cookies’ threat researchers say the tried-and-true methods security analysts have been preaching to consumers for years still reign:
Use antivirus and anti-malware software
Create strong passwords
Don’t click on links in emails
Call the company directly instead of responding to emails that ask for payment
Only use secure websites when shopping online (ones where the url begins with https://), etc.
But the one that the researchers suggest might have the most muscle is installing identity theft protection software.
“Identity theft protection software can monitor your credit file, your financial information, and internet websites to detect the misuse of your data,” All About Cookies’ Josh Kobert told ConsumerAffairs.
“There are many different software programs out there, including Aura, Norton LifeLock, Identity Guard, and ReliaShield that offer credit monitoring and identity theft protection services.”
If you’re interested in finding out more about identity theft protection, ConsumerAffairs has a complete guide to those services available here.
And, now may be a good time to purchase identity protection. ConsumerAffairs found good discounts being offered for Norton LifeLock (66% off), IdentityForce (33% off), and Identity Guard (50%) off.