For better or for worse, the biggest shopping season of the year has arrived.
Now that Thanksgiving Day is nothing more than a mere memory (aside from the heartburn and excess poundage), it’s time to start thinking about all the presents and other stuff you’ll need to dish out money on for the upcoming gift-give-a-thon. Once upon a time, snagging great deals on Black Friday meant packing into stores with literally thousands of other shoppers. Thankfully, Cyber Monday came along to relieve some of the congestion and has cut into Black Friday’s profits in a big way, allowing the lazy, claustrophobic and savvy shopper to save money from the comfort of his or her couch.
But like all things digital, Cyber Monday savings come with a big potential risk. Online shopping can always be a bit perilous if you’re not careful, but at this time of year, hackers and scammers are working double time to lure in victims. To help you avoid becoming part of a Cyber Monday scam statistic, we offer you The Ultimate “How to Not Get Hacked While Shopping Online” Guide this shopping season:
Seriously, The Ultimate “How to Not Get Hacked While Shopping Online” Guide
1 – Use your credit card – While it’s true that using credit cards isn’t a great habit in terms of living within your means, it’s a safer bet than using debit when it comes to shopping online. Credit card companies refund buyers in case of fraudulent purchases or identity theft.
2 – Don’t trust social media offers – Scammers know that even when you’re hanging out on Facebook and the like, you’re still thinking about scoring deals on purchases. They craft freebies or discount offers and post them around social media networks that may seem legit, but don’t fall for them! The links are filled with malware that can steal information from your device.
3 – Don’t shop on public wifi – There is no delicate way to say this so here goes: If you shop on public wifi, you’re just being plain dumb. It’s incredibly easy for hackers to create open spoofed networks, or to even intercept open connections, giving them full access to all information you transmit while using that connection. So wait until you get home to shop, or do it from a secured mobile connection, ya hear?
4 – Don’t click links in emails – Scammers use this time of year to send out all kinds of emails – from charity pleas to “receipts”, to enticing offers you’ll get by “clicking this link!”. You know it and we know it – they are filled with malware, so stay away.
5 – Only shop on reputable sites – Now is no time to experiment, stick with tried and true vendors only.
6 – Look for https – Even when shopping on known sites, make sure you see a little closed green padlock and the all-important https in your browser when you go to put your purchase though. If they aren’t there, everything you type can be seen by hackers.
7 – Stay away from “too good to be true” deals – This is a smart rule of thumb to bear in mind throughout the year but now it’s even more critical because hackers know you have shopping, and therefore saving, on your mind. This is precisely when people might feel compelled to make rash decisions, so don’t fall prey to this kind of pressured thinking.
8 – Keep your software and operating systems patched and up to date – One of the main ways hackers attack systems is by exploiting known vulnerabilities in unpatched software and operating systems. Patch ‘n update before they have the chance to get in.
9 – Think before buying gift cards – Scammers try to auction off gift cards on sites like eBay but surprise! When the recipient tries to use them, they are empty. If you go in the gift card direction (tsk tsk tsk), buy them from the store itself or a store that sells them like Bed, Bath and Beyond.
10 – Review credit card statements – It’s always a good idea to check your credit card statements but it’s more important than ever at this time of year with all the money-changing-hands going on.
11 – Use unique passwords and logins – If your Old Navy or Amazon password is P@ssWord, you’re asking for trouble. Using unique and random passwords helps ensure the safety of your accounts.
12 – Use multi factor authentication – What’s better than simply using the aforementioned secure passwords? Using multi factor authentication provides an ever more iron-clad defense against hackers accessing your accounts.
13 – Use an anti-virus and anti-malware solution – We all get sloppy every now and then. We click links we shouldn’t, we install software accidentally. This is why it’s critical to have a strong anti-malware solution like RCS protecting your devices. A solid anti-malware program will catch any infiltrators before they can do harm and steal your data.
14 – Watch out for pop ups – Aren’t popups annoying? Well, they can be a whole lot worse than just frustrating nuisances. If you haven’t heeded our sage advice and have yet to set up your AM and still have unpatched software, viruses that cause pop ups can infiltrate. When you try to enter in your credit card, they pop up and pretend to be the legit payment page.
15 – Check the URL in your browser – Sure, it may look like Best Buy, but check the URL in the browser window to make sure you’re really shopping on the site you intended to be on. Hackers build spoof sites to look authentic, but their names are just a weeee bit off – like Amazan, or Best Buys, you get the idea. So check before you shop.
16 – Keep a record of your order – After making a purchase, keep all purchase emails until you have received it and are sure you’re satisfied with your purchase.
17 – Shop from stores’ own apps – If you’re on a tablet or mobile device, make sure to shop from the store’s official app only. Stores have more direct control over their apps than their websites which could theoretically be hijacked.
18 – Don’t save personal info – If your accounts do get hacked and your information is stored on them, you can be pretty sure your credit card number and other identifying information will turn up on sale on the dark web some time soon.
19 – Set up a PIN Or password for your device – With all the online and offline shopping going on, it can be easy to misplace small devices – make sure your mobile is secure with a PIN or password to keep it safe when you get shoppers’ brain.
20 – Keep your browser clean – Your browser quietly collects information on you and gives it to advertisers unless you are proactive to stop it from doing so. Delete your cookies, browsing history and cache before you begin shopping.
21 – Use your head! – Perhaps the most important tip of all, think before you shop. No article can cover every possible nefarious scenario that hackers can dream up. That’s why it’s up to you to remain alert and vigilant at all times. Hey it’s your money and your data so it’s in your best interest to stay smart.
Now go shop ‘til you drop, and remember that we love the colors white and blue and all things security-related. But we’ll take gift cards too, if you insist.