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Holiday Shopping Phishing Scams Skyrocket Amid Pandemic

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- COVID-19 has many doing their holiday shopping in front of a computer screen. But that great deal that pops up in your inbox could be something more sinister.

A tech company found phishing attempts rose 80% during the first half of November. And in a national survey, nearly one-fifth of respondents say they've already been the victim of a cybercrime.

It's the time of year where people typically are spending time shopping, finding that Black Friday deal or searching for the perfect gift. The traditional shopping inside stores has shifted this year, with approximately 62% finding gifts online.

Michael Johnson is director of the Technological Leadership Institute at the University of Minnesota.

"Ecommerce is going to be even more critical, and phishing is going to be even more of a problem," Johnson said.

Johnson says scammers have two goals: to get your data and to get you to click on something to infect your system. It could be luring a consumer to click on a deal.

"They might use a discount or a gift card offer," Johnson said.

He says consumers have caught on, but with COVID pushing more buying online, criminals are targeting internet shoppers more intensely.

"You always should be skeptical of any urgent request. Step back and stop yourself from clicking," Johnson said.

He says it you get something from what you think is a known retailer, check the email address to see if it's legit, and look for typos. Instead of clicking, it's a good idea to go directly to the website to look for the offer or deal.

"Nothing is ever free on the internet, and if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," Johnson said

Johnson says it's also a good idea to keep an eye on your bank and credit card statements this time of the year. Monitoring charges can help detect fraud.

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