As you hunt for bargains online this holiday season, look out for this common scam

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s the busiest time of a year for more than just retailers. As the holidays draw closer, scammers are kicking into full gear.

Giveaways, discounts and coupons, let’s face it: We’re all going hunting for online bargains. That’s exactly where scammers are waiting to pounce, said cybercrime expert Evan Blair, the co-founder of computer security firm ZeroFox.

“The scale of scams and fraud that we are seeing this year is beyond things that we’ve seen before,” Blair said.

ZeroFox spent three weeks examining scams targeting customers of major brands and found 61,000 unique scams. More than 10,000 of which were using the hashtag “#blackfriday” to draw in victims.

“The scammer will use that hashtag and try to jump into the conversation,” said Blair, whether it be on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

About 90% of the scams ZeroFox’s team uncovered were geared toward customers who look for deals online, but do their shopping in stores. Walmart and Target were the two biggest brick-and-motor stores being targeted.

“Usually what the scammers will do they will use a fake social media profile that will look like an actual Target profile, and they will post that Target is running a flash sale for ‘xyz’ product,” Blair said. “Click here to go the promotional website.”

But once you click, you’ve been taken to another scam site that will want personal information. You’ll most likely be asked to log in — thus providing the scammer with your email and password. Some sites even want your birth date and cell phone number.

It’s all information that can be used to empty your bank account, hack into your email or social media profile and steal your identity.

To protect yourself from scammers, Blair said that if you find a good deal online, don’t click on the link. Go to the retailers actual site — type it in yourself — and find the deal there. If you can’t find it, it most likely doesn’t exist.

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