TAMPA, Fla. — Black Friday is here, and whether you’re preparing to brave the lines for loved ones or hitting up deals online, we’re taking action to help keep your information safe.
As you’re racing around, checking off all of the holiday to do’s, a good amount of shopping may be done on your phone. ABC Action News caught up with Brian Oglesby, with the Better Business Bureau covering West Florida, to break down what you need to know.
A big one – making sure the website you’re visiting has the URL https. The ‘s’ at the end is key, indicating it’s a 'secure' website.
"A lot of scammers will spoof very well-known brands and have an extension of their website that looks similar, but they'll change up letters,” Oglesby said. "When you're making a purchase online through an un-secure website and you do not see that https, you're completing forms with a lot of your personal identifiable information, you're providing credit card data and these scammers can actually steal your identity. You could be the victim of identify theft. They could take that credit card information and make purchases elsewhere.”
Another setup, is scammers will email fake shipping notifications to steal your identity.
"You're going to receive an email claiming that a shipment is on its way and what they want you to do is click on a link and verify information. You want to stop right there, do not click on any unknown links, always hover over those links, see their true destination, and see where that email is truly coming from,” Oglesby warned.
And as innocent as it may sound, beware of “Letters from Santa” websites that aren’t legitimate.
The ABC Action News I-Team uncovered several complaints tied to a Sarasota company last year.
"I feel totally duped,” Angela Bloom told the I-Team at the time.
"You think you're buying a letter from Santa to your kids, and many companies are not fulfilling those orders,” Oglesby explained, adding in some cases, “They're collecting that personal information, your credit card data, and can sell that to third parties and steal that information from you."
Another tool to keep in mind is the state attorney general’s newly released 2018 Holiday Consumer Protection Guide. In it, you’ll find additional tips for when you’re shopping online, things to look our for when donating to charities, and pages upon pages of recalled items to avoid.
Children’s toys, clothing and sporting goods are among the items highlighted in the guide. They were chosen from a federal list of nearly 300 products recalled in the last year due to safety concerns.
Think strollers, where a child could be strangled, high chairs your little ones could more easily fall in, kids clothing and toys that have choking hazards, and pillows that pose a fire risk, to name a few.
State Attorney General Pam Bondi and the BBB also gave similar warnings when it comes to charity donations.
Oglesby told ABC Action News that scammers, “are going to create fake charity appeals, again, look like websites, and name similarities and charities.”
In addition to the BBB, you can check to see whether a charity is legitimate and eligible to solicit specifically in Florida at www.800helpfla.com. Once you’re there, click on the “Check a Charity” tab and you can also learn how much of your donation goes directly to the cause you’re supporting, versus administrative costs.