Coronavirus: Cybercriminals target Bay Area residents as online shopping surges amid pandemic

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Do you find yourself online shopping more because of the stay-at-home order? So are many other people; it's opening up opportunities for internet retailers, but unfortunately cybercriminals are seizing the moment.

Folks here in the Bay Area are among the first victims.

Whether you're working at home, home schooling the kids or just sheltering in place, most of us find ourselves with extra time on our hands. Many of us our filling that time online.

Both Amazon and Walmart are hiring 250,000 workers combined to handle the onslaught.

It's a trend noted by the cybersecurity firm, Digital Shadows.

"This is almost like Black Friday, November and December, all over again," said Rick Holland of Digital Shadows. "Just like some of the commercial legitimate businesses are talking about spikes in sales they're seeing on e-commerce. This is an unseasonable opportunity for cybercriminals."

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It's something the San Francisco office of the FBI is already noticing.

"They know people are online more now, looking for shopping. So they're looking," said Sanjay Virmani of the FBI.

The easiest targets are those new to e-commerce. Those, Virmani calls the low-hanging fruit.

"Clearly the online shopping sector is something they're looking at," he said.

Rich Holland says his team at Digital Shadows is monitoring the dark web and watching cybercriminals excitedly discuss increased opportunities to steal your credit and debit card numbers.

"'Carding' would be payment card fraud. So payment card fraud would be going after my debit card, your debit card or credit cards," he said.

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They do that by getting you to click malicious links, infecting your computer with malware or stealing your number by skimming commercial sites.

Holland says expect to see an uptick in reports of credit card fraud in the coming weeks. He suspects the Bay Area is already experiencing it.

"In the Bay Area, you've been on lock down longer, its hit e-commerce sooner than other parts of the country," Holland said.

"It's up to the American public to be competent, be aware of some of those threats," said Virmani.

We've said this before, but it bears repeating. Beware of clicking on any attachments or links from someone you don't know. Type the URL into a secure browser instead. Watch out for emails purporting to be from a familiar business, and don't give out your personal financial information or passwords.

RELATED: Coronavirus scams multiply on phone apps, websites, email, and robocalls

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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