With the holidays JUST around the corner, we wanted to send out a few useful tips for online shopping; especially with the ongoing rise in cyber criminal activity infiltrating our computers. There are days that savvy shoppers look forward to - Black Friday and Cyber Monday. These are exciting for consumers, but also for scammers because this is one of the busiest times of the shopping year. We can avoid having our holiday fun spoiled by an identity thief or financial fraudster if you exercise a few simple steps when shopping online:
Do your holiday shopping with reputable retailers.
Make your holiday shopping list, check to see who's been naughty or nice, decide where to shop. Stick with retailers you know and trust. Bookmark their sites to go there directly rather than clicking on offers in ads, emails, or text messages. That will help protect you from realistic looking fake stores designed to look just like the sites of trusted retailers.
Only shop on secure sites on Cyber Monday and shopping online for Black Friday deals.
If you're sticking with well-known retailers, their sites should be secure. But if you're shopping at smaller or independent shops, look for a little lock icon in the top left corner of your browser bar when you're on the site. A secure site's URL should start with HTTPS and not HTTP. You might have to click on the URL to see the HTTPS. Secure sites use SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encryption to keep data in transit hidden from hackers.
Unscrupulous and aggressive holiday shopping scams.
To avoid scams, double check on common Black Friday, Cyber Monday deals. Be on the lookout for online scams such as clicking on advertised “deals” that lead to fake online stores to collect credit card numbers and other personal information. Stay away from office and sales that seem too good to be true.
Remember, use strong passwords.
If you create an account, instead of checking out as a guest, make sure to protect that account with a strong password so it's not easily "hackable."
DO NOT USE public Wi-Fi to shop.
It may seem convenient to do your holiday shopping at your local coffee shop, but it is dangerous with capital D. It can open the door to hackers as these connections are often unencrypted and unsecure leaving you vulnerable to have your name, address, credit card numbers, and other personal information grand by scammers. If you must shop on a public Wi-Fi, make sure to have some secure program which will allow you to transmit your data encrypted for security.
Always check your receipts.
During the holiday season, take a few minutes to keep an eye on your bank and credit accounts. Glance over the transactions, make sure the amounts are correct and look for fraud. If you spot an unauthorized transaction, call your bank or card issuer right away. A scammers trick is to submit a bill based on a random list of numbers for a small dollar amount, i.e., $5 or $10. If it goes through them know they found a good credit card number to use and follow it up with a larger purchase.
There seems to be more and more scams generated each time we turn around, many of them being VERY realistic. But with some simple safeguards set in place for online shopping, we can continue to plan and enjoy this wonderful time of year with our friends and family. Be safe and have a wonderful Thanksgiving and holiday season!