WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) Playing spoiler for much of the good cheer surrounding this time of year, thieves are out there, looking to take advantage of the holiday shopping season.
As you search for holiday deals, scammers are searching for ways to steal your personal information. The first line of attack for criminals is fake websites.
"It's getting harder to identify whether a website is real or fake because these scammers are becoming more sophisticated and professional on their website development," says Denise Groene with the Better Business Bureau.
Groene says online purchases was the top reported scam in Kansas last year. Fake websites for shopping caused many of those cases.
"A lot of times, the fake websites will lure you in with better-than-normal pricing because that's where they get you," she says.
An example Groene provides is bainstona.com. The site sells everything from computers to bikes. She says this is not a safe website.
How can you know?
First, check the contact section of the website and make sure there's a legitimate address listed. Groene also recommends using
whois.com to look up the website URL.
A quick search shows bainstona.com is based in Vietnam and is set to expire in January of 2020.
"If you're thinking about ordering and you see it's coming from a foreign country, that might be an indication it's not some place you want to order from," Groene says.
You also need to watch out for phishing emails, messages that appear to be from places like the US Postal Service, FedEx, or even Amazon.
"They'll tell you that there's a problem with your package. Typically it has a link they want you to click and either enter your account information or divulge other personal information about yourself," Groene says.
She says phishing emails were the second most reported scams in Kansas last year. She says scammers are betting on the holiday season, when many are ordering gifts online.
"Think before you click. If you receive an email and you don't remember ordering from that particular organization, that would be a red flag that is not a legitimate email," Groene says.
If you're buying gift cards as holiday gifts, there are a few things to look out for.
"Because (thieves) know a lot of gift cards are purchased during the holidays, they will go grab a gift card throughout the store, scratch off the PIN number, take a picture of the 18-digit card number of the PIN number, and then place the gift card back on the kiosk rack," Groene says.
That means the gift card you purchase could already have a zero balance. The best way to avoid this is to not take the first gift card on the rack. Also, check to make sure the code on the card wasn't tampered with.
The bottom line to protect your personal information whether your'e shopping in a store or online is to take your time and do your research, the BBB says.