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NYS Officials Warn Of Identity Theft, Black Friday, Cyber Monday Scams

Black Friday shoppers enter the Jefferson Valley Mall at midnight in 2014.
Black Friday shoppers enter the Jefferson Valley Mall at midnight in 2014. Photo Credit: File photo

New York state officials warned Tuesday that shoppers ought to be on guard against identity theft and online scams during Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the remainder of the holiday shopping season.

"This time of giving is, unfortunately, viewed as a prime opportunity for cyber thieves and scammers to take advantage of unsuspecting shoppers,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “I encourage all New Yorkers to remain vigilant and exercise caution while shopping this holiday season in order to avoid becoming a victim of these unscrupulous practices.”

Black Friday and Cyber Monday mark the official kick-off of the holiday shopping season. Although these days are meant to be opportunities for nabbing bargains, they are also high season for scammers and fraudsters.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, consumers nationwide reported more than $1.7 billion in losses from fraud and identity theft in 2014.

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center received more than 14,000 reports in 2014 from New Yorkers who reported over $47 million in losses due to cybercrime. There were over 3,000 identity theft complaints reported by consumers across the state during last year’s holiday season.

To maximize the chances of securing great deals while minimizing the risks of scams and identity theft, consumers should purchase from reputable retailers and engage in safe online behavior. The New York State Division of Consumer Protection and the New York State Office of Information Technology Services offer the following tips: Do your research.
  • Only buy from merchants and websites you know and trust
  • Beware of misleading ads
  • Think twice before clicking on email links or pop-up advertisements
  • Review the store’s refund, delivery dates and shipping/handling policies
  • Be alert for potential charity donation scams

Protect your personally identifiable information.

  • Secure your computer and mobile devices
  • Don’t use public Wi-Fi for personal banking or online shopping
  • Secure your home Wi-Fi
  • Secure your purchase
  • Take precautions with the passwords you use for online accounts
  • Avoid unsolicited offers

If any email asks for your personal or financial information, it’s most likely a scam.

  • Do not respond to unsolicited emails requesting your password, PIN or other sensitive information via email
  • Pay with a credit card

Keep records.

  • Keep a paper trail
  • Beware of small charges on your bank statements

Take action if you think you are a cybercrime victim.

  • Contact your financial institutions
  • Reset your passwords
  • Put a freeze on your credit accounts
  • Contact your local police

For more information or to file a complaint against a business, visit the New York Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection or contact the Division’s hotline at 1-800-697-1220. The Consumer Assistance Hotline is open from 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Monday - Friday, excluding federal holidays.

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