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Experts offer tips for shopping safely online on Cyber Monday and throughout the gift-giving season

SYCAMORE – Sycamore police are warning holiday shoppers to be aware when shopping online and when their packages arrive during the holiday season.

Steve Cook, deputy police chief for the Sycamore Police Department, said his department already has received three reports of packages being stolen from area residents’ front porches.

“That’s higher than normal, but this is the shopping season,” Cook said.

Cook recommends people at least look into having some security system.

“One thing that does help us is when people have the door cameras,” Cook said. “One case we made an arrest on, we solved it because they had a doorbell camera that captured the incident.”

Cook said police ended up recovering the package, which was still sealed.

Some suggestions from Sycamore police are:

• Ensure you schedule delivery to a secure location. People steal packages from homes where nobody is home. Instead, ship the package to your work or to a friend’s house, so they can sign for it.

• Some shipping companies offer tracking and text message notification with package delivery. Use those options so you know when a package arrives so you can pick it up or have a family member or friend pick it up.

• To stop others from falling victim, report suspicious cars parked near homes that receive packages. Call the police if you see someone take a package from the front door, write down a description of the person, the car and include the license plate.


Cohen Barnes, owner of SundogIT Inc. in DeKalb, said there are a lot of bad actors, especially this time of year, who use “social engineering” to take advantage of victims.

He said the criminals will resort to phishing – sending out emails from what look like legitimate banks, credit card companies and online stores.

“Everyone this time of year will probably order from Amazon,” Barnes said. “So these crooks will send out emails that look like they came from Amazon.”

Barnes provided a real-life situation. He said they’ll send “Grandma,” an email about there being a problem with her order.

“Grandma will be so scared it won’t get to her granddaughter,” he said about the phishing links. “When Grandma clicks on it, it’s either going to download a virus on her computer or it’ll take them to a page that looks like the Amazon login page, but it’s not.”

Barnes said when the person gets tricked, the thief or thieves have the information.

He said people can prevent this.

“If you get an email from Amazon or Chase, never click on the email,” Barnes said.

Instead, open up a new web browser and log in to the site there.

“The link in the email is probably a trick,” Barnes said.

Barnes said people can also set up two-factor authentication, which is another layer of security. The way it works is when you log into your bank account, instead of you seeing all the information there, the site will send to another device a one-time authentication code to use, or you will have to use another identifier, such as a fingerprint, to gain access to your information.

It makes it so your password isn’t the only way you protect yourself.

The Sycamore Police Department also has suggestions for shopping safely online:

• Make sure the website is legitimate. Some websites look like the actual online merchant but are fraudulent.

• Use a credit card or a prepaid credit card for purchases instead of a debit card. If a debit card is compromised, the thief could access your bank account. Promptly report any fraudulent charges to your bank.

• Only use secure websites where the URL begins with https://, not http://

• Do not use public Wi-Fi or those at restaurants, libraries or shopping malls.

• Do not store your card information with an online merchant. While it may be easier to save your store password, if the data is breached it could expose your personal information.

Cook said the crimes can happen anywhere.

“There’s no specific area that’s different than any other area,” Cook said.

He also said people should not fall for unrealistically low prices.

“For an athletic jersey, if there are three or four places that have a jersey for $150, then one site has it for $70, you have to question if it’s real or not,” Cook said.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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