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Don't click that! Scammers are preying on holiday shoppers buying gifts early

If you click too fast, you might be clicking on a scam. Only 20% of people report losses because they are embarrassed to admit they fell for it.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — For the last few weeks, retail experts have made it clear that people need to start their holiday shopping early because of supply chain shortages making some of the hottest gifts tough to find. 

All of that is fine and dandy but you shouldn't be in such a rush that you accidentally click links and pages that want to steal your personal information. It's easy to get lost in the online shopping experience, clicking from one ad to another page and then another before you aren't anywhere close to where you started. Hence the danger of clicking too fast. 

Having people scurry to shop quickly is good news for criminals looking to steal your money and even your identity. It's human nature to rush and in doing so, you might be lured by the sound of a great deal. Targeted "ads" will find something you want and tell you to act now to save big. 

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"Those are becoming quite sophisticated," Otavio Freire, president and co-founder of Safeguard Cyber, said. "With the holidays coming up it's going to get worse. We have seen very in-depth social engineering attacks that will fool the best of us."

Freire said the scams will populate your social media feeds based on your interests, like some of that direct marketing you get based on pages your account likes

WCNC Charlotte is always asking "where's the money?" If you need help, reach out to the Defenders team by emailing money@wcnc.com.

Users should be cautious of any free giveaways, discount coupons or deals that show up directing them to their favorite stories. Also, be leery of charities that are asking for your money. Scammers could be trying to trick people to click the link or send money to redeem a great offer. Those are almost always scams. 

It was reported that $70 million was lost to scams in North Carolina alone last year. 

"The reality is, only 20% of people report the loss, so that number could be five times bigger," Freire said. 

Last year, the FBI reported 467,361 complaints with losses exceeding $3.5 billion nationally. Even that number is likely bigger as people don't report the crime out of embarrassment.

If you find a good deal or a good coupon, go to that store's actual website and double-check before you click on it. If you lose money to an internet scam, it's gone because these people operate in other countries and it's next to impossible for anyone to help you get it back. 

Contact Bill McGinty at bmcginty@wcnc.com and follow him on Facebook.

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