How to Avoid Fake Websites This Holiday Shopping Season


COLORADO SPRINGS – It’s holiday shopping season, and Americans love to spend big during the holiday season. According to statistics from the National Retail Federation, Americans spent nearly 800 billion dollars in November and December 2020, and the number is expected to increase this year.

With around 62 million Cyber ​​Monday shoppers this year, according to a survey of NRF customers, it will be up to consumers to stay smart to prevent scammers from taking advantage of the holiday season.

Phishing, identity theft and nondelivery scams are three of the main ways that scammers will try to get your money or information from holiday shopping, often using bogus websites or online auction platforms.

These three common scam methods cost U.S. consumers more than $ 500 million in 2020 alone, according to FBI data. The Colorados made up over $ 20 million of that lost money.

According to the FBI, the Colorados are also among the top 10 lost money related to internet crime, despite being the 20th state in terms of population.

Spoofing and phishing

Identity theft is when a scammer creates an email or website to look like a legitimate seller. The FBI says this is usually done by changing a single letter, symbol or number. They may then ask you to download software, send money, or disclose personal, financial, or sensitive information that could compromise you.

Phishing is often linked to phishing because fraudsters combine the two schemes. A phishing scam often comes from an email, text, or call from an address or number that appears to be from a legitimate business. According to the FBI, a common phishing tactic is to ask you to update or verify your personal information in a reply to the email or while visiting a website.

The website, however, will be a spoofed version and the website will be used only to steal the information you put there.

How to avoid:

The National Cybersecurity Center has provided News5 with a set of checks that you can perform with websites to determine if the website you are on is legitimate or not.

  • Make sure the website is spelled correctly e.g. there is no 0 for o or .org where it would be more appropriate to .com
  • Look for “https” versus http – this can be an indicator that a site is secure, especially if it is associated with a padlock.
  • Click on the padlock in the URL bar – when you do, you should see a confirmation that the site is secure and the addresses match what is in your URL bar and what is there. a in the box that opens. If they don’t match, that’s a warning that this is not a good site to be on.
  • More and more browsers are also adding an extra level of “secure” / “unsafe” text in the URL bar to help recognize faster whether a site is a safe place or not.
  • Look for a site seal – like this:

    Norton Symantec

    sample site seal

    But don’t just watch, be sure to click on it to make sure it’s not a fake image put on by some smart criminal

  • Check if the site has privacy policies, return policies, weird grammar issues, check for Facebook or Google reviews about the business (if it’s a business)
  • Use a site checker, like to find out if something has been flagged as an unsecured site
  • Add an extension to your web browser, like this one [], to help create sites that are legitimate but may not be inherently secure, encrypted and secure


Non-delivery is “most often linked to Internet auction fraud,” according to the FBI. The scam is pretty straightforward. A “seller” lists an item on an Internet auction website, then accepts your payment for the item, and then simply doesn’t ship it. The FBI says sellers like these sometimes repeat the process with the same item under different usernames.

How to avoid:

There are a few things you can do to determine if the auction seller is legitimate. The FBI advises you to follow these steps to ensure that you are not buying from a fraudulent seller.

  • Make sure you are buying from a reputable source and research them or check the reviews to make sure they are a genuine seller
  • Verify a physical address rather than just a phone number or PO box, and be sure to call and / or email the seller to make sure the number or email is legitimate
  • Visit the Better Business Bureau website from the seller area
  • Be careful with “special” investment offers and when dealing with people outside of the United States
  • Check if they offer a refund or guarantee, and use a credit card so you can dispute the charge if something goes wrong

What to do if you find a scam or a fake site

The National Cybersecurity Center has also provided some tips on what to do if you end up on a scam or scam website.

  • If you find a site that looks suspicious and you can get out of it quickly, report it. A few different places include: [] and []
  • If you walk into a site and suddenly start getting pop-ups to download antivirus software, it’s a good sign that you’re in a place where you shouldn’t be. If you try to close your browser and pop-ups ask if you are sure you want to leave, close your browser completely and run a quick virus scan to make sure nothing suspicious has been introduced. your device.
  • If you cannot close your browser, go to your task manager through your “start button” and choose the browser you are in and “complete the task”. And again, perform a scan of your device for possible viruses

The FBI also hosts a dedicated Internet crime website, where consumers can file a complaint. If you or someone you know has seen a fake website or been scammed, you can report it by by following this link.

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