It’s that time of year again! November and December are the two active online shopping months in the United States, and consumers sometimes bypass importance cybersecurity measures in their hunt for last-minute bargains.
No doubt that cybercriminals will try to take advantage of vulnerabilities during this heightened period of holiday shopping and will prepare all sorts of scams to try and trick online consumers. Scams like social engineering, phishing emails, or spoofed and malicious websites are among the most popular ways to trick unsuspecting shoppers—not just in the U.S., but all over the world.
It's important to stay alert and spot the red flags that could indicate scammers at work.
Safe Shopping Best Practices
Below, you'll find some tips that can help you be smart and shop safely during theholidays.
Make sure that the software you're using is up to date.
I'm talking about the OS, browsers, and all the applications you might be using on your end host. This is not limited to your desktop, of course! Since mobile shopping has become more popular, make sure your mobile devices have the latest patches and app versions installed. In doing so, you'll greatly reduce the risk of running into known vulnerabilities and getting infected by malware.
Don't use free public wifi for shopping!
Using MITM (Man in the Middle) methods, attackers might be listening in on your communication and intercept the traffic. It is best to use a trusted wifi connection like the one at your home. If you aren't at home, then I'd recommend that you turn your smartphone into a hotspot to connect your laptop to the internet.
Use credit cards with online transactions, not debit cards!
Debit cards aren’t covered by fraud insurance policies and provide direct access to the bank accounts they’re linked to. Credit card companies give insurance to buyers if the product isn’t delivered.
Be alert of the information being collected!
Make sure you are aware of the kind of information that's being collected when you make an online purchase.If you're being asked for personal data, like Social Security numbers or password information, then that's a definite red flag!
Be wary about pop-ups and ads in general.
While some of them might seem legit, they are often a way for scammers to trick over-enthusiastic online shoppers into clicking them, and then they can redirect you to malicious websites. Be wary of ads that seem too good to be true and just close them or block them out with an ad-blocker.
Don't trust every email you get!
Phishing emails are used to trick shoppers to go to malicious websites and enter their credit card information and/or install all sorts of nasty malware in the process. If you receive a suspicious email from an address you've never heard of, with a link to an unknown website, don't open attachments and don't go to the website because it can be malicious. By opening the attachment, you could be installing malware on your device. This is a very popular way that criminals try to steal your information or infect your devices.
Avoid unknown websites and only shop on websites that you trust!
That new gaming console might look very interesting when it's being offered for $200 cheaper than on other websites. But, at the same time, that shadywebsite.com will be stealing your CC information when you order something from them!
Avoid using the same password over and over again.
If one of the websites gets compromised then all of your other accounts are at risk as well. Ideally, use a passphrase. They tend to be easier to remember and are nearly impossible to hack! Still having trouble managing different passwords? Then I'd recommend using a password manager tool to help you with maintaining your passwords. There are many available options out there (e.g., Keepass, LastPass, etc.).
Do some research and check for reviews!
If you are buying on a new website, check for existing reviews. Scammers usually don't have reviews. Look to see if there are other customers that post their experiences with the website.
Your movements can be tracked if you have bluetooth or wifi enabled.
While you are within range, malicious users can track your location and could possibly verify your shopping habits and send you targeted advertisements. I would advise to disable wifi and bluetooth when you're not using it.
The LIVEcommunity wishes you safe shopping and the happiest holidays with your loved ones!
Please comment down below if you have any other important tips—the community will thank you.