Unless you prefer the rush of being the first in line to swing open the door to holiday deals, online shopping it the way to go. However, the physical comfort of home shopping comes with the added insecurity of online hackers and fraud specialists.
Washoe County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Dennis Carry stresses locals need to be on their toes, mentally of course, when browsing for holiday specials. Sgt. Carry is the supervisor of the Northern Nevada Cyber Center, specializing in online theft and fraud cases.
“It is important to know there is always a risk there when you shop online,” Carry said. “You have to be cautious that you are working with a trusted source and through a secure network.
Usually the larger, more well-known stores have the financial resources for the best security.”
Carry said some online stores have full knowledge of where shopper’s credit card information is being held and others will outsource it to a third party for storage. He said a secure web page will display a lock near the URL address of the site to indicate it is ready to hold your personal information.
Carry said the busy internet days of Black Friday and Cyber Monday can provide an opportunity for internet hackers to illustrate their skills. He said several factors can affect the abilities of hackers to be successful.
“I would think it definitely increases the possibility. The most successful fraud that involves hacking is usually done to corporations and credit card information storage,” Carry said, “And there will be plenty of people using open wireless connections so that opens up possible harm as well.”
Carry said each time shoppers go online to make a purchase they should be exercising caution and be aware of the risks. He said an encrypted internet connection, updated virus prevention software and continually checking bank and credit card statements are a must.
Carry also said there are no numbers showing a direct relation to frauds happening on Black Friday in Washoe County because many criminals are not discovered or caught until much later. He also said fraud has become an increasing problem and cautioned that new forms and scams are always emerging.
“People should always use those tips when they are shopping online. It will help, but it won’t prevent anything from happening,” Carry said. “We know that fraud itself is increasing and sometimes getting smarter and more complex. But the ‘old’ ways of fraud, like someone stealing a check out of the mail, will always exist.”
Carry said the most important factor to being safe while online shopping is to be aware. If a site does not look trustworthy, it likely is not. He said the safest alternative is usually an exchange of cash with a local merchant.
“Even when we take every precaution online, the reality is we have no control over who holds that data on the other end,” Carry said. “There is always a possibility that an entity or online shopping source can be breached and your information can be stolen from them. Be aware, check your statements and always consider the safest shopping methods. A local provider accepting cash or fraud-proof checks will be the safest bet.”