CINCINNATI (FOX19) - FOX19 NOW technology expert Dave Hatter says scammers are gearing up for their busy season as holiday shoppers look for the best deals.
Researchers, he says, have found hundreds of thousands of fake sites set up to defraud people by imitating large retailers.
Here’s how it works: Scammers copy logos and text from the websites of major retailers. They also purchase a domain name similar to popular shopping sites.
The goal is to get shoppers to click the link to their fake website and enter login information that scammers can use to bleed your bank accounts dry.
“Now I get this bogus fishing email," Hatter explained. “It’s got a link in it and perhaps it goes to something like Amazon.com, except the ‘o’ in Amazon is replaced with a ‘0’ (zero). To the naked eye, that’s going to be very hard to see.”
Unfortunately, these fake websites cost next to nothing for scammers to set up. That makes it easy for them, with the proper know-how, to cash in on customers who aren’t tech-savvy.
“For $24—literally $24—you can go out and buy tools online," Hatter said referencing a Deloitte study, “and they say for $24 you can get maybe a $25,000 a month return on that.”
Shopping at brick-and-mortar stores is the obvious way to avoid online scams. Still, if you prefer online shopping, Hatter says people can take some simple steps to protect themselves.
He encourages shoppers to avoid clicking links sent via email, instead of asking people to type the website into the browser bar themselves. This simple step can save customers from scammers who register domain names that look like trusted websites.
“One of the really tricky ones is they’ll replace the lower-case letter ‘l’ with a ‘1’ or the ‘1’ with a lower-case ‘l’," Hatter said. “To the naked eye, it’s very hard to see that especially in that little browser window at the top.”
Anti-scam tools are useful too.
Many times, scammers are working out of the country, and the websites they’re registering aren’t as well established as the large retailers. Norton offers a safe and secure way to check on the validity of the website you’re visiting through their ‘Safe Web’ tool.