News from 555 Gearhart Road: Be aware of fraud and theft online

By Sheryl Roadcap -

SIDNEY — Although Cyber Monday is over, cyber deals will extend throughout the end of the year. Online shoppers should be aware of fraud and theft.

Experts are estimating $7.7 billion was spent online during this year’s Cyber Monday, Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart said during his weekly interview. That’s close to 20 percent more in sales spent online this year compared to 2017, he said after reviewing the statistics.

“Twenty-five percent of all security breaches take place in retail sector,” Lenhart said he learned. “Identity theft is a big deal. Unfortunately I know a little bit about that. I went through that about a month ago and it is terrible to get out from underneath of it.”

From a consumer’s point of view, deals will continue at the big box stores, online and at local businesses throughout and after Christmas, Lenhart said. “Your opportunities to be a victim stealing your credit card numbers or identity is pretty easy.”

When shopping online, Lenhart recommends to ensure the website is secure with the green lock symbol present.

“If you don’t watch the websites, they’ll have names that are similar to the subject’s that you want to shop but they are not the same. And so be very careful. Obviously, the ones you know the best online is the one you want to use: Amazon and all of those. Be very careful when you get off (those websites),” he said.

He suggested making sure your phone and home computers have the recommended security systems in place to protect yourself.

“Use a credit card that is not directly tied to your personal bank account,” Lenhart said. “Use a prepaid card, which is even better. Never use a debit card that can drain your whole bank account.”

He also cautions for shoppers to never give out any other names, addresses or phone numbers while shopping online. Lenhart said you shouldn’t need to answer any security questions when online because if those questions arise, “you are probably on the wrong website.”

Be sure to monitor your credit as regularly as you can, he said, to ensure the purchases are legitimate.

“Look at your credit to indicate identity theft or the theft of those cards pretty quickly,” Lenhart said.

He said to ensure there is an anti-virus system installed on your computer. And, if you don’t know who is sending an email or the subject matter within a sent email, do not open it. Make sure your router, the devise that connects your computer to the Internet, is locked so that no one from the outside can access your computer.

To help fight hackers, change the passwords on your accounts regularly. Lenhart recommends using hard combinations of numbers and letters, not simple combinations, like 12345, or your house address.

He also recommends being cautious of using public WiFi hot spots to avoid theft.

“A lot of restaurants and businesses offer WiFi; there is a lot of things can be stolen when that WiFi is used and your are doing whatever you are doing in the restaurant or a big box store. So, you really have to be careful.”

Giving Tuesday, Nov. 27, is a day, Lenhart said, that many people open their hearts and wallets to help others. He recommends to choose known charities, such as your church, the United Way, Salvation Army, or other favorites, but to do your research before giving to ensure legitimacy.

Lenhart also strongly recommends educating your little children about online strangers. He recommends to monitor their online activity often.

“We are always worried about strangers on the outside, but strangers can come right into your house, living room or kitchen,” he said.

“Just like with any other time of the year, a deal found online at Thanksgiving weekend, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is,” Lenhart said. “Common sense should play a part.”

By Sheryl Roadcap

The writer conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.

The writer conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.