Holidays & Cybersecurity: Avoiding Online Shopping Scams

As we rush about decking the halls, scammers are working behind the scenes to set up schemes designed to rob you of your hard-earned holiday cash. You can take measures to protect yourself from falling victim to online shopping scams. This holiday season, follow these tips to keep yourself protected.

  • Amp up your passwords: It’s very tempting to use the same password on all the shopping sites you use, and to keep those passwords simple. Remember, if it’s simple for you, then it’s probably simple for hackers. It may seem like a lot of trouble, but using hard to guess passwords can help prevent your data from being stolen. org, a Silicon Valley-based nonprofit dedicated to helping consumers stay safe on the Internet, recommends that your password be at least eight characters long, include numbers, letters, and symbols.
  • Only use native apps: When you are buying from an online retailer, use only the official app that is produced by the vendor or available in the Apple or Google store. That way, you can reduce the odds that you are using a copycat app designed to snag your info. Be particularly wary if the app asks you to provide access to the information you have stored on your phone such as your contacts and credit card information.
  • Check the URL: While it’s not always easy to do, especially when shopping on mobile devices, you should keep an eye on the URL of the site you are on. Use only sites that are secure (the URL starts with HTTPS rather than HTTP) and recognizable. Cloned sites often have peculiar web addresses. Websites that are not secure (even if they are legit) may permit your information to be visible to the outside world. Learn more about how to spot a fake site.
  • Click links carefully: If you receive an email with an invitation to click on a link, be smart about it. Phishing is a time-tested scam technique that lures you with an attractive offer. If the email is from someone you aren’t familiar with, it may be an attempt to steal your information. If it’s from an online vendor, it may be a fraud. Skip clicking on the link and go directly to the merchant’s website. And if trying to steal your information isn’t enough, email is still the number one delivery method for malware.
  • Do not share your social security number: Legitimate merchant sites will never request your social security number. If you are asked to provide this, even if it’s just the last four digits, bail out and find a safer site.

Even when you take all possible precautions it’s possible to get scammed. If you stick with using your credit card or a third-party payment tool that offers protection such as PayPal, you should be able to protect yourself. Just use your common sense, look for red flags, and trust your instincts. When you do this, you’ll be able to get through the holiday shopping season fraud-free.

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Posted in Cybersecurity, Holiday Series