The holiday shopping season is ramping up and unfortunately, so are criminals looking to take advantage of your urge to get discounted prices. Each year these scams seem to be more sophisticated, making them harder to sport. Virginia Tech cybercrime expert Katalin Parti shares these tips to help you avoid falling victim.

  1. Avoid clicking unsolicited pop-ups, links, or attachments.
  2. Don't contact the telephone number received via pop-up, text, or email.
  3. Never download software upon the request of an unknown individual who contacts you.
  4. Never allow unknown individuals to control your computer (or other devices) remotely or physically.
  5. Remember that the U.S. government will never request money via wire transfer to foreign accounts, gift/prepaid cards, or crypto.
  6. If you receive an email asking you to update your payment method or requesting other personal information, contact the company's help desk directly to make sure the email is legit before you do anything else.
  7. Report suspicious activities to local FBI offices and provide as much detail as possible to help counteract these sophisticated threats.

Parti says it’s important to closely review any emails being sent to you. “Pay attention to the sender’s email address, subject line, and body of the email. Misspellings, bad grammar, requests to share personal details, and low quality logos are all red flags of email phishing.”  

Unfortunately, Parti says there isn't an obvious way for the average person to be able to identify if or when a website has been compromised. “The only potential tell-tale sign might be that the website itself doesn't quite look 'right.'”

To help monitor your accounts, Parti recommends enabling purchase alerts on credit cards and disabling international purchases, unless you’re going overseas. She also suggests only making purchases on your home or cellular network, never on public wi-fi. “Don’t save your credit card information on retail sites,” says Parti. “If possible, use a third-party payment method like Apple Pay, Google Wallet, or PayPal.”

About Parti

Katalin Parti is an assistant professor with the Department of Sociology in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech. Her research focuses on both the offender and victim sides of cybercrime, sexual violence, and online manipulative scams targeting older people. Parti is a certified mediator and holds a European Certificate in Cybercrime and Electronic Evidence. She is also a coauthor and co-editor of Juvenile Justice and Schools: Policing, Processing, and Programming (San Diego: Cognella, 2020).

Schedule an interview

To schedule an interview with Katalin Parti, contact Margaret Ashburn in the media relations office at or 540-529-0814.