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FBI warns of increased online scams this year due to COVID-19 pandemic

The Little Rock FBI is warning people to watch out for online scams this year as more look to online shopping amid the coronavirus pandemic.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Little Rock FBI is warning people to watch out for online scams this year as Black Friday and Cyber Monday nears.

"Just last year alone, Arkansans were scammed out of 22 million dollars in online fraud," Jessica Franklin, spokesperson for the Little Rock FBI said.

It's no secret the holidays are stressful, and on top of the pandemic, many of us have a lot on our plate.

"Please just do not add to that stress by being careless with the information you put out online," Franklin said.

More people are skipping the stores this year to stay safe, but this brings more opportunities for scammers to take advantage of you online.

Franklin said to watch out for suspicious texts or e-mails that look like they're from your bank or places like Amazon and Target trying to get you to click on a link. 

If you're not sure if it's legitimate, it's best to just delete the message. If the message seems urgent, call the company the message is coming from to double-check it is real.

"They're from scammers and they're getting shoppers to click on these links and put in information," Franklin said.

Suspicious ads on websites are also a problem, redirecting people to sites that look real. But, in reality, you may be buying something that will never show up.

"If you see an online ad, make sure you're being redirected to a verified website," Franklin said.

This is where Franklin recommends sticking to sites you know you can trust and you have ordered from before. If you're ordering from a new site, check to make sure it's safe by looking up reviews or asking friends and family about it.

"If the site doesn't have any reviews or negative reviews, I recommend just not shopping on that site at all," she said.

If you plan on placing any orders online or in-store in the coming days, Franklin says to monitor your bank account closely for any suspicious activity. And if you can, always use a credit card.

"They offer several layers of security," Franklin said.

If you believe you have fallen victim to a scam, call your bank right away. After you contact your bank, please contact your local law enforcement agency. Also, file a complaint at www.IC3.gov