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An alarming report by the Better Business Bureau shows there’s been a spike in online scams since the beginning of the pandemic. Shopping online could put you at risk.
“Online purchase scams were in the top three riskiest scams for the third year in a row," Melissa Lanning Trumpower, the executive director of the Better Business Bureau’s Institute for Marketplace Trust, tells Yahoo Life. "When COVID hit, then it became very clear that this was becoming even riskier because people were increasing their online presence.” Each year, her team puts together a report that identifies the riskiest scams for consumers. Trumpower said their 2020 report shows buying online continues to be one of the biggest offenders.
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“When you create accounts online, use a different password for every account. That way if your password gets compromised on one account, the attacker will not be able to break into all your other accounts," Lorrie Cranor, director of the CyLab Security and Privacy Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, tells Yahoo Life. Cranor says some of the best ways to protect yourself and your personal information is to stick with websites and vendors you’re familiar with, do your research on those you haven’t heard of before and be smart about the way you set up your accounts. "Completely random passwords are safest, but they tend to be harder to remember. Write them down in a safe place or use a password manager program.”
One way to generate completely random passwords for your online accounts is with LastPass Premium. This top-rated password manager, actually creates safe and unique passwords for every online account you use. Once passwords are created, the software simplifies your online shopping by automatically filling in those long and complicated passwords for you.
LastPass Premium also stores your payment information and shipping details within its vault and automatically fills those in too. This adds another layer of security because the vendors do not get access to your credit card information. And you get the bonus of making your online shopping easier.
Speaking of credit cards, Trumpower says the BBB’s study reveals that some payment methods are safer than others. “Make sure that when you do enter a payment that you’re using a credit card or PayPal. Those are the two payments methods that didn’t lose as much money,” she says. “When people were using non-traceable payment methods, they were more likely to not get their money back or lose money.”
The FTC adds that credit card companies also let you dispute unauthorized charges or temporarily withhold payment when you suspect you’ve fallen victim to a scam.
If you think you’re safe just browsing the internet for gift ideas, think again. Scammers are trolling your searches to identify which products online shoppers are looking for.
“When you click on things, even if you don’t make a purchase, scammers have access to those tools, so they can really get a good gauge of what it is you’re looking for,” says Trumpower. “They’re always looking for the most popular products to offer those up to consumers at the best price, and as we know price is the key factor to falling prey to a scam so that’s something need to be careful about... If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If no one else has that product, and it’s a great price, just be very careful and proceed with caution.”
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