As holiday shopping picks up, so does cybercrime

Paul Kurtz
December 09, 2019 - 4:30 am
Close up of hands typing on laptop.

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — As holiday shopping ramps up, so do the number of cyberscams that rob people of their money and identity. Law enforcement and the Wolf administration are offering some tips on how to avoid being ripped off.

Cybercrimes have been keeping Upper Merion Township Detective Jerome Staquet very busy.

"I've seen probably half a dozen cases just in Upper Merion this year alone," he said. But things really ramped up at Thanksgiving when an elderly woman told police that she was bamboozled into handing over her life savings of $181,000 to someone posing as as a Social Security administrator, after receiving a robocall.

"It was incrementally," recalled Staquet. "There were two transfers of cash from an account, just under $50,000 each and then $81,000 in gift cards."

Consider that poor woman exhibit A of how easy it can be to get ripped off.  

Related: Man charged for conning Evesham woman, 76, out of $125K in online dating scam

The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue has released some tips to help people avoid being victimized.

Spokesman Jeffrey Johnson says phishing emails are the most common method crooks use to reel people in. Often, thieves send these emails posing as trusted sources or governmenet agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service or Department of Revenue, encouraging you to click on a link.

"Once you've done that, it allows the cybercriminal access to your information on your computer or mobile device," he detailed, "and they can use that information to, in some cases, file a tax return and get the refund that you're entitled to. If anything appears suspicious or is from a source you don't recognize, you don't want to click on it."

Another recommendation is to use a password with home Wi-Fi and not to shop on unsecured Wi-Fi networks in public places. Johnson also advised keeping security software up to date on your computer and mobile phone. 

"One big thing is hopping on websites you recognize and that are secure and you can find that by checking in the URL for the 'https,'" he added. The 's' stands for secure communications.

Contact the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center if you run into any problems.