Illinois officials warn of online scams during holiday season

A person searches for holiday gifts online.
A person searches for holiday gifts online.(KAIT)
Published: Nov. 23, 2022 at 5:27 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - The Illinois Department of Innovation & Technology is warning people to avoid scams while shopping online in the coming weeks.

Online shopping has become significantly more popular since 2020, and DOIT officials said Wednesday that increased online traffic makes it much easier for cyber criminals to trick buyers.

The National Cyber Security Alliance said people should beware of ads encouraging them to click on links, account warnings or shopping notifications. DOIT Security Program Manager Jennifer Rominger said you should also check to make sure you pay on a legitimate e-commerce site.

“Are you typing it incorrectly? And matter of fact, maybe don’t type in the web address because there’s too much room for you typing an error,” Rominger said. “Fraudsters like to create web addresses that are very close to your favorite stores with just slight spelling errors that are common typing errors that are fake sites.”

Rominger explained it is easier to google a website and start shopping from there. You can also check social media as most valid vendors advertise on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites. Rominger said people can also check who registered an e-commerce website before purchasing any products.

You may also see more ads about shopping online for Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Rominger noted that this is a drastic change from the past when most stores were open for large crowds early Friday morning.

“We are seeing a huge trend change this year,” Rominger said. “A lot of retailers are not doing the in-person Black Friday or deals Thursday night at midnight. They’re closing, yet they’re advertising these deals. They started back on Veterans Day online.”

DOIT officials suggest people use a credit card while shopping online as there are more consumer protections for credit cards if you are a victim of fraud. Rominger stressed that people should avoid pop-up ads because there may be something dangerous if they click on them.

“That would be the equivalent of randomly changing lanes on the highway, not looking, making an exit, and buying sushi at a gas station,” Rominger said. “You know, you’re making a risky decision right there.”

She also suggested that people should continuously check bank and credit card accounts for any unauthorized activity over the next few months. Rominger said that people should also change usernames and passwords for accounts after the holiday season ends to avoid hackers.

“The holidays are a busy time of year for folks shopping virtually, making travel arrangements, and wanting to give back to charitable organizations, but it’s also a busy time for cyber criminals who are trying to take advantage of people,” said DOIT Secretary and State CIO Jennifer Ricker. “We want to help our Illinois residents protect themselves against these malicious hackers by offering best practices to ensure they are cyber aware this holiday season and everyday.”

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