SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) – Tuesday at 3 a.m. marks the start of one of the top three online shopping events of the year, just behind Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Amazon Prime Days will offer mega savings on all kinds of things from Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer.
This is also a prime time for rogue websites to scam consumers.
Fortunately, Dakota State University in Madison is helping prevent future swindles via its nationally-recognized cyber security program.
Scams are rooted in the form of rogue emails from faux retail websites, and these Prime Day phised emails increased 86 percent last year from 2020, according to komando dot com. And it is trending upward.
”(The emails) may look like they’re coming from Amazon, when indeed they may not be,” said Better Business Bureau of South Dakota director Jessie Schmidt.
A few years ago, Logan Shaw fell prey.
”Unfortunately, I clicked on the link and logged in and got my password stolen. I had my credentials stolen from my Amazon account,” Shaw said. “I was getting these notifications saying (my device) was getting logged in in Turkey and Uzbekistan. Apparently, I was traveling to these two countries.”
Shaw reported this inaccuracy to Amazon and got his account and password back. His credit card and bank account information were unscathed, but some scammers obtain credit card information, which can lead them to your band account.
Schmidt said she does not know of any extreme catastrophes involving online retail scamming in South Dakota, but she has heard of nightmares nationally.
”Information to their retirement accounts has been compromised, and then, their entire retirement savings wiped out,” Schmidt said.
Eventually, Shaw enrolled at DSU and later graduated from its Beacom College of Computer and Cyber Sciences. He is now a full-time digital forensic analyst at DSU’s “DigForce” lab, which partners with the Bureau of Consumer Protection to find out where these rogue websites come from and how they trick consumers.
”We’re trying to help inform the local communities around DSU — Sioux Falls, Brookings, Watertown, Madison, Huron, anywhere around the state, basically — on how they’re able to protect themselves from scam websites.”
DigForce can find out if there is embedded information in website codes, the location of the businesses, and if photographs on the websites are original and authentic, or taken from Shutterfly and other generic photo sites.
But, Shaw conceded, “scams are always going to be a thing, unfortunately. There’s never going to be an end to it. That’s how people make their money.”
Schmidt said that while the success rate isn’t high for scammers, it is enough for them to make a living, and in some cases, healthy ones.
Going phishing is a lot like going fishing, she said.
”They’re sending out hundreds of thousands of emails with a click. They only need a handful of victims to get the quotas that they need,” Schmidt said.
The easiest way to avoid a scam is to simply not click on those links in those emails sent to you by what you may think is Amazon.
Instead, order your products, or alter your order, through the retailer’s own website or platforms. This will ensure that the order is authentic and you won’t be hacked.
Here is some other advice Shaw provided to prevent you from being scammed:
* Obtain a two factor authentication, or 2FA. This is an extra layer of protection used to ensure the security of online accounts beyond just a username and password. You will get an email regarding your 2FA, or you can set it up with an app. Two common ones are Duo Mobile and Google Authentication (for Droid devices).
* Receiving an email that says your package shipment has been canceled is usually a red flag, especially if that email tells you to click on a link. Amazon will not typically tell you to click on a link, Shaw said.
* Scam websites typically have misspellings and grammar errors. Amazon, Target, and Walmart do not.
* Don’t re-use passwords, and never save a password to your device
* Enter your password manually every time. It is worth it.
* Create passwords that are at least 8 characters and have at least one upper case and one lower case letter, plus at least one symbol. Do not use passwords involving your birthdate, address, phone number, or any other relevant number to you personally. Create something unique and random.
* In these potentially inauthentic emails, before clicking on a website, decipher if that site has “http” or “https” in front of it. If it is “http,” don’t click! This is likely an unsecured site.
* If there is a timer on how long you have until an offer is no longer available, it is likely a scam. This is a ploy to get the consumer excited and desperate to buy the product and give up their identity and vital personal and bank information.
* Sometimes, retailers like Amazon will have you take a survey. Amazon will never make you submit credit card information for a survey. The scam sites will. Never submit credit card info for a survey.
* If you’re looking for an item that is sold out everywhere else you have looked and you come across a website that not only has the item, but is selling it for 15% or more off the regular price, don’t fall for it. It is too good to be true.
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