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Holiday shopping scams to look out for this season

One scam in particular is seeing a 500% increase this year, and experts believe it will get even worse heading into the holidays.

MINNEAPOLIS — The holiday shopping season is here, and while stores will be busy, so will scammers.

"We will definitely see an increase,” cybersecurity expert Mark Lanterman says.

Lanterman and his company Computer Forensic Services deal with scams and cybercrimes year-round, but the holidays are a very busy time for scams, especially this year.

Here are two to watch out for:

Package delivery scam

“They typically send either a text message or an email that claims to be from UPS, FedEx or the United States Postal Service. It says 'Hey, we’ve attempted to deliver this package to you, there’s a problem,'” Lanterman says.

And that problem, they claim, could be that they don’t have enough personal information, or the correct address to deliver your package.

They might also claim that they didn’t receive enough money to cover the shipping costs and they need a little extra.

“Often times they’re asking for just a few dollars, and if you click on it, enter your name and your credit card information, they’re not just charging you for the few dollars, they’re going to charge it until the card is declined,” Lanterman says.

This scam has been around for a while, but Lanterman says they’re seeing more of it lately with online shopping becoming more popular during the pandemic.

“People are doing more online shopping and a lot of people are constantly waiting for a package to arrive and they might just click on things and supply credit card information without even a second thought,” Lanterman says.

The best way to protect yourself is to never give them your credit card information, and if they ask for personal information, Lanterman say pick up the phone and check with the shipping company first.

Gift card balance scam.

Abhishek Dubey is the CEO at Bolster, a technology company that tracks down fake websites.

Last year their system saw more than 32,000 fake websites built around gift cards and scamming people.

So far this year, they've seen more than 152,000. That’s five times more than the amount they saw in 2020.

"Some of these websites look very legit. It’s hard for consumers to identify which ones are legit and which ones aren’t,” Dubey says.

Bolster recently came across one example that was incredibly convincing.

The fake website was built to look identical to Target’s actual gift card balance checker.

The differences between the real website and the fake website were incredibly subtle.

“Anyone could come across the site and think it’s the real one,” Dubey says.

These fake websites are created so that the scammers can steal your gift cards.

Dubey says once you type in your gift card number, the scammers will turn around and sell that number on the internet.

“They will often take all of these gift card numbers and sell them in bulk on the dark net,” Dubey says.

So, if you need to check your gift cards, Dubey says check the URL at the top and make sure it's the REAL company's website, or better yet, manually type in the website yourself.

Another version of the gift card scam is fake websites that say you've won a free gift card.

If you see one while you're shopping online, experts say don't fall for it.  

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