Watch CBS News

Fraudulent websites are targeting holiday shoppers looking for a bargain

Scam websites targeting holiday shoppers
Fraudulent websites are targeting holiday shoppers looking for a bargain 04:31

Americans spent more than $6 billion online on Black Friday last year. As millions of people start to search for Black Friday bargains this holiday season, some are being targeted by scam artists. The scams can come in many forms, and one cropping up more and more is fraudulent websites that look exactly like the real thing for big names like Apple, Amazon or Walmart.

They're good enough to trick you. One tricked Massachusetts woman said she never thought she'd fall for something like this. When Maureen Lamie was shopping for new Hoka running shoes, she did a Google search and found offered "discounts" – so she ordered a pair for the bargain price of $80.

"It said Hoka e-store dot com, so I thought it was a Hoka store," Lamie said.

That was until she checked her bank account, where she says she found two debit card withdrawals, reports CBS News correspondent Anna Werner.

"One was the price of the sneaker and one was another price, but they both came from China," Lamie said.

Two days later, the fraudsters made two more withdrawals, which she said totaled about $350. Lamie fell victim to a scam website. And this holiday season, there will be more.

"You definitely should not feel bad if you fall for something like this. This happens to millions of people," said Bree Fowler, who writes about digital security and data privacy at Consumer Reports. Fowler said some sites look "just like what you think is the actual site" for products – like that fake Hoka site Lamie visited. Our deeper dive showed some tipoffs: reviews that are actually for coats, not shoes, and a supposed customer service email which, in online reviews, people called "fake."

Fowler showed us a "delivery failure" email hoax, which she called "the biggest red flag ever." She also pointed to a $25 "gift card offer" for iTunes that prompted "download all."

"That's a very bad idea. Never click on attachments. Never download things," Fowler said.

Steve Ginty with cybersecurity company RiskIQ said scammers want your personal information, like debit card numbers, to access your bank account. As protection, he suggests using payment systems like Apple Pay, Venmo or Paypal for purchases.

"Because you don't have to enter the credit card information at time of checkout and therefore the actors can't get access to that information because it's a secure transaction," Ginty said.

Lamie got most of her money, but she's still out $80. Instead of shoes, something different showed up in the mail from China: a cheap knockoff Gucci scarf she never asked for.

"And I feel bad for people like if they're going shopping for their kids. For me, it's sneakers, it's okay, but maybe people buying their kids their Christmas presents, and then they don't get them, that's even worse. So it's pretty pathetic," Lamie said.

Hoka told CBS News it has a team that combs the internet for unauthorized websites and that it does everything in its power to protect the consumer. Lamie said her bank credited her debit card for three of the four charges but wouldn't credit her the initial charge for the sneakers.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.