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Online shopping has become a permanent part of the holiday experience, so much that Cyber Monday is now a shopping event on par with Black Friday. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many are unable to leave their homes for medical or personal reasons; for this group, remote shopping is an outright necessity. Whatever the reason, being able to purchase holiday gifts from the comfort of your computer or smartphone is convenient and time-saving.
Thus far in 2021, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has received more than 200,000 reports of fraud specifically related to online shopping. And 2021 isn’t over yet. Given how much online shopping happens from Thanksgiving to New Years, this number is almost certain to increase before 2022.
Reasons to Be Careful When Online Shopping
Any situation where your personal information (name, email address, credit card number, etc.) is compromised could lead to identity theft. This includes online fraud.
While there are things you can do to avoid falling for online shopping scams, even the most diligent online shopper could still be scammed.
So, how should you respond if this happens? How can you minimize the damage and (ideally) keep this fraudster from pulling the same scam on another online shopper?
1.) Cancel Your Debit/Credit Card and Change Your Passwords
If your credit or debit card number was compromised during the scam, immediately contact your financial service provider to cancel your card and order a new one, and if necessary to report any fraudulent purchases made by the scammer.
If you shared your bank routing information with the scammer, contact your bank immediately to change your login information. Take time to go over your transaction history and check for any other fraudulent purchases made by the scammer. Consider using different passwords for each online account, as this helps minimize the damage if your login information is compromised again in the future.
Even after you change your login information, continue to monitor your bank account for any unverified purchases. If fraudulent charges persist, it may be necessary to move your funds to an entirely new bank account.
2.) Report Your Case to the Federal Trade Commission
If you are certain that you’ve been the victim of an online shopping scam, the most effective response is to report your case to the Federal Trade Commission at their website. According to the FTC, while they cannot investigate individual cases, the information generated by the information provided may be shared with more than 3,000 law enforcement partners to help with investigations.
When you report your case, you give law enforcement the information they need to apprehend the scammers responsible, and you may even help stop these fraudsters from targeting more people. The FTC states, “We can’t resolve your individual report, but we use reports to investigate and bring cases against fraud, scams, and bad business practices.”
The FTC encourages consumers to report any suspected fraud, whether the scammers reach out in person, over the phone, by mail, or electronically.
In addition to reporting your case to the FTC, it can be useful to file a police report with your local police department. Whether or not the police are able to prosecute the fraudster directly, the report itself can serve as evidence against any additional fallout related to the scam.
3.) Monitor Your Credit
Even after you have changed your login information and/or canceled your credit card, you’ll want to continue to monitor your credit for any fraudulent activity. It’s common for fraudsters to wait months before they re-attempt to use someone’s illegally acquired information.
A free copy of your credit report is available through Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion. You’ll want to immediately review recent activity to check for any fraudulent loans or purchases. It’s also helpful to keep an up-to-date copy of your credit report on hand as evidence against future incidents of fraud.
If you aren’t already enrolled in a credit monitoring service, you can reach out to your credit card provider to request it. This service will alert you if there are any changes to existing credit accounts. If you have Identity Champion already, you can also sign in to review your credit report and any credit monitoring alerts.
With Identity Champion’s Protect and Complete plans, you get notified quickly when hard pulls show up on your Experian® credit file. (A hard pull is when your credit report is viewed in order to open a new bank account or credit card, auto loan, telecom application, prepaid credit card, student loan, or payday loan.) Identity Champion’s Complete plan also provides the ability to lock and unlock your Experian® credit file quickly and easily in your online portal (a quicker, easier alternative to initiating a credit freeze).
Online shopping is a part of modern life, and if your financial information is compromised by online scammers, Identity Champion is here to provide the resources you need to help protect and repair your identity.