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Thanks to technology, you can breeze through your shopping and other tasks online. Here are some things you need to know for a safe online experience.

Wire Transfer Fraud

Money transfer schemes are on the rise in the digital age, evolving as cyber thieves become more sophisticated. While they often target homebuyers getting ready to close on a house, others are vulnerable to their tactics as well. In most situations, the scammer sends a fraudulent email to their target, requesting what appears to be a legitimate request to wire funds to cover title, escrow or another cost. Unfortunately, any money transferred as a result of the fraudster’s email ends up in their bank account and you’re not likely to get it back.

Play it safe: Always double check the email address and content of messages requesting wire transfers. Keep in mind that fraudsters can ‘spoof’ email addresses from your bank, the government or even your contacts, making their attack look like its coming from someone you know. Verify who is requesting funds and where they’re going with a phone call.

Fraudulent Websites

Cybercriminals register domain (website) names that are similar to popular companies’ names to sell phony products or trick consumers into giving personal information. Some set up sites that mimic real ones (even using their company logos); others use social media to advertise their fake sites. They all have the same goal: to steal your money and/or your personal information, otherwise known as phishing.

Play it safe: Protect yourself by shopping and doing business only on sites you trust and keep them bookmarked in your browser. If you do shop on a website that’s new or unfamiliar, here are a few tips to help you spot the scammers.

  • See if the URL (web address) begins with “https” and has a lock icon to make sure that your transaction is secure and that data transmitted is encrypted.
  • Avoid too-good-to-be-true deals that you receive via email or find advertised on social media or trendy news websites.
  • Check customer reviews, but be suspicious if all are excessively positive.
  • Be wary of sites that only accept money orders, electronic transfers, gift cards or wire payments.
  • Never respond to a request for a text message as part of the payment process—and don’t complete the purchase.
  • If the business is based in the U.S., find out if it’s in good standing by looking up the corporate name on the website of the Secretary of State (or Secretary of the Commonwealth for Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Virginia) in the state where it’s incorporated.

Fake or Misleading Ads

Beware of scams lurking on online marketplaces, where there are multiple products and sellers. In addition to selling their own products, some sites allow other vendors to also sell products. Although most companies do their best to police their sites, scammers sometimes sneak through. Some do a “bait and switch” by advertising one item, but delivering another (it doesn’t match the advertisement) or never delivering at all. Others advertise luxury items like jewelry for unbelievably low prices. Can you really get an authentic Rolex for $100?

Play it safe: Before you buy, read the reviews about the seller and the product you want to purchase. Check out the return policy. If you’re still not sure, stick to sites that have rules and policies to protect you.

Hackers Stealing Data

If you’re shopping on a website that doesn’t have secure encryption, a hacker may be able to intercept financial information when it’s transmitted. As a result, your identity or financial information could fall into the wrong hands.

Play it safe: When shopping online, always look for a padlock icon in the search bar. That indicates the website is secure. Be sure the site URL begins with “https://”, rather than just “http://”. The “s” stands for “secure” and indicates that data is encrypted when transmitted.

Malvertising (Malicious Advertising)

It may be tempting to click on an advertisement you see online, especially if it’s a really good deal, but you could be putting your information and your computer at risk if it’s a malvertisement—an advertisement infected with malware.

Play it safe: To reduce your risk, be sure your security software is regularly updated and avoid clicking on suspicious advertisements. If you really want to find out more about the advertised product or company, don’t click. Do your homework and research the company in your web browser.

If you suspect you’re the victim of a scam, contact Navy Federal immediately to report the fraud. With our Zero Liability policy, you won’t be responsible for reported, unauthorized card charges. Visit our Security Center to learn more about how we work to stop cybercriminals.

This article is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.