Scammers hungry to steal your information make a living this holiday shopping season

Shopping for the perfect Christmas gift is a tradition this time of year, but it also means hunting season for thieves and scammers, according to our partners at Jacksonville-based WJXT.

As more and more people move from in-store shopping for Christmas gifts to shopping online, Tom Stephens, president of the Northeast Florida Better Business Bureau, advised customers to pay close attention to the website they shop on, especially when scammers prey on customers who looking for the best offers.

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Stephens said a large portion of the scams reported to the BBB are related to social media ads claiming to have popular items sold out in physical stores.

“They have none of the product. Once they take your credit card, they take your money, close the business, close the bank account, and they’re done,” Stephens said.

Stephens also said these are not isolated scams that happen periodically.

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“That’s the number one scam we get reported on all year: online shopping. People buy stuff and get fake merchandise or no merchandise at all,” Stephens said.

Individual shopping websites can also be misleading if you don’t know what to look for. Most legitimate shopping sites have a lock symbol in the URL bar and show “HTTPS” in the URL to let browsers know that a transaction is about to be made on a secure site.

When it comes to Christmas shopping in stores, more credit and debit card readers are generally safe, but there have been times when customers’ card details have been stolen as stores suffered a data breach by hackers. Using cash is considered a safer option. However, depending on how much you plan to spend, it’s best not to walk around with a large sum of money visible to would-be crooks.

“With a credit card you have protection if the product breaks. If the product is bad, you can dispute the charge. If you pay in cash, you are at the merchant’s mercy at that point. So there are pros and cons to doing that,” Stephens said.

However people choose to shop during the holiday season, they should take extra precautions to protect their money and identity, Stephens advised.

A radio frequency identification (RFID) wallet is another way to protect credit card information. It’s built to prevent thieves from stealing card details electronically with handheld scanners by scanning your wallet, which may be in your back pocket.

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