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Tips to avoid cyber holiday shopping scams

(NBC) - Tis the season for giving, but also the season for taking. And unfortunately, the holidays make it a merry time for scammers too.

You're probably used to a lot of the same safe shopping advice, but in recent years, the scams have taken a new look: more high-tech!

NBC's Noah Pransky shares what you need to know for 2023's shopping scam season.

Avoiding shopping scams used to be so simple.

Watch out for pickpocketers, don't send money online to strangers, if an email looks fake - it probably is.

But in 2023, the scams are a lot more sophisticated than you may have realized.

"These are not just people in their basement who are doing this for kicks. These are organized criminal gangs, often located overseas, who are very savvy at what they do," said John Breyault, National Consumers League.

John Breyault, with the National Consumers League, has been tracking really convincing websites, product reviews, shipping alerts - all fake!

Basically, these aren't the same old Nigerian email scams.

Just ask a former Nigerian scammer!

"It is getting so sophisticated now; people are becoming smarter every day," said Chris Maxwell, Lagos, Nigeria.

Chris Maxwell, zooming in from the middle of the night in Nigeria, is a reformed scammer now consulting for the site

He says scammers aren't just looking for a quick payday these days.

They want a gift that keeps on giving: just one of your major passwords, since so many of us re-use them across multiple accounts.

"Once you have access to the password, we have access to their social security number, you have access to the driver's license, you have access to your credit card, you have access to their bank accounts…It's very easy to do a lot of damage with a permissions like that," stated Maxwell.

So here are five quick tips to defend yourself against 2023's most dangerous thieves and hackers:

1. Don't reuse passwords.

I know it's impossible to remember 300 different logins, but at least use different passwords for your bank and email.

Consider using a secure password manager to make it all easier!

And always use two-factor authentication for those really important accounts.

2. Watch out for shipping scams.

Get an email or text about a delayed delivery?

Don't click; don't respond; don't call the number.

To avoid a trap - get your updates from the retailer or the shipper's site.

3. Tou may think I'm nuts…..But update your software!

About four in 10 Americans hammer that "remind me later" button when prompted to patch up vulnerabilities. And it's music to hackers' ears.

Well, this is me - reminding you later - to update your phone and your browsers.

4. Pay with a credit card.

They have much better protections than most of the new, digital payments scammers prefer.

"Bitcoin, gift card, cash app, PayPal, Venmo, Zelle," said Maxwell.

If they ask you to pay a risky way - run away.

"When you pay; pay the safest way. That's with a credit card, for most people," stated Breyault.

5. Beware of really convincing online websites you've never heard of. Even Black Friday deals have their limits.

"Listen to your gut. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is," said Breyault.

With any luck - your vigilance will ensure some happy holidays at least until those credit card bills roll in come January.

Article Topic Follows: Consumer

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