How to make sure you don’t get scammed this Black Friday

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INDIANAPOLIS — The busiest shopping day of the year is almost here. Make sure to take some precautions to not fall for a scam online.

Sensormatic Solutions, a retail solutions portfolio of Johnson Controls, released a prediction of the busiest shopping days, with Black Friday topping the list. With online shopping increasing in popularity, the Better Business Bureau is telling people to shop safely.

A scam that they have seen an increase of over the past few years is fake websites.

“What we see really are two things,” said Tim Maniscalo, President and CEO of the BBB serving Central Indiana. “Number one, you’re going to see a website that may look like a familiar place in which you shop. What they’ve done is they copied a lot of the logos and things from a legitimate website, and when you go to buy something there, it’s not going to show up. You’re just going to give them their money and it’s not going to show up or we also see a lot of websites that have counterfeit goods.”

Scott Shackelford, a professor at Indiana University specializing in cyber security, said there are some red flags to be on the lookout for while shopping online.

“There’s some easy ones to spot right off the bat, including if on the URL,” said Schackelford. “If you see it just as HTTP and not HTTPS. That S stands for secure, which means your information is encrypted when you use that site.”

Shackelford also said to be on the lookout for funny wordplay involved on the website. Maniscalo says most of these fake websites originate from outside the country.

“English is not their native tongue, so they will a lot of times have misspellings, or say things in kind of an awkward way, not how we would say it, or how we would print it out there,” said Maniscalo.

There is also the problem of what Shackelford calls Grinch Bots. These are automated bots that monitor major retail sites to see what items are the hottest and buy them out as soon as they are restocked.

“There’s actually been bills that have been proposed in Congress to deal with example of that phenomenon. But of course, they’re not enacted yet, so it’s still up to consumers,” said Shackelford.

There are also relatively new state laws and initiatives, including funding from the recently-passed infrastructure bill, to help address cyber security.

The Better Business Bureau is also warning people who want to buy a pet for Christmas to be on the lookout for puppy scams.

“You’ll go ahead and purchase it, they said, OK, we’ll send you the dog and the dog never shows up,” said Maniscalo. “And what happens then is there’s this endless line of excuses. The dog got sick. There’s some vet bills the dog came from outside the country we’ve got import fees. Just excuse after excuse after excuse to make you pay another $100 here $150 there before you figure out the puppy never existed.”

Maniscalo recommends either seeing the actual animal first before paying or choosing to adopt from a reputable shelter.

Another survey by Sensormatic shows more people are expected to shop in person this year. 47% of U.S. consumers plan to shop in-store, up 8% from last year.

While shopping in-person, the BBB warns people to be on the lookout while using public Wi-Fi.

“What we see a lot of times at the mall are most shopping places will have these free public Wi-Fi’s. It’s a great service, but that really makes it a lot easier for a scammer who’s out there trying to get into your phone,” said Maniscalo.

Maniscalo recommends using this service sparingly and being careful about what you browse while using public WiFi.

If your information does fall prey to a cyberattack, Indiana has a data breach notification law that requires businesses to disclose when customer information has been breached.

If you are concerned, you can keep a close eye on your credit by checking your credit report to see if there were any fraudulent accounts opened in your name. If you have any reason for concern, you can put a fraud alert on your credit report or even freeze your credit.

If you spot a scam, whether you’ve lost money or not, report it to BBB’s Scam Tracker at BBB.org/ScamTracker and the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Your story can help other consumers avoid similar scams.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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