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Tis the Season for Cyber Crime: 7 Tips for Safer Online Shopping

Posted by: SL Powers on Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The holiday season is upon us and the biggest online shopping sales are right around the corner. Analysts are predicting ecommerce holiday sales will reach $107.4 billion, which is a 13.8% increase from the same period last year. Cyber Monday is set to remain the overall leader in shopping days, with both the highest predicted revenue ($6.6 billion) and fastest growth (16.5% year-over-year).

Online shopping provides great convenience and a hyper-competitive market for bargain-seeking consumers.  However, the huge uptick in internet traffic also presents the perfect environment for hackers to attack.

From fraudulent gift cards to phishing scams and social engineering tactics, cyber crime tactics are more sophisticated than ever and often largely successful against unsuspecting victims.

So now is a great time to brush up on holiday shopping cybersecurity tips that can help keep your personal information and your money safe.  Here are some basic tips to follow that will help ensure your personal information is safe from hackers:

  • Online shopping should only be done on a computer that belongs to you and on a network that you trust. Never conduct this type of confidential web browsing in places such as coffee shops, airports or restaurants because cyber criminals rely on unsecured public Wi-Fi networks to access personal data. Public Wi-Fi can be hacked by someone with the right tools, compromising your passwords, billing information and other sensitive data.
  • Be very wary of providing your personal information online. Never give anything other than name, address and phone number.  You should not need to answer security or privacy questions when making a purchase or checking out. If you are prompted to enter such information, try to checkout as a “guest” instead.
  • Never purchase merchandise from a website that does not use secure HTTPS for the purchase process.  Check the address line of your browser during the purchase process; it should start with HTTPS.
  • Monitor your credit through a third party for identify theft and have SMS and email alerts sent to you immediately.  You should also regularly check your bank statements and check your online banking activity every day. Report any suspicious transactions to your bank immediately.
  • Use a credit card instead of your debit card, if possible.  If your credit card data is compromised, it’s easier to resolve issues with a credit card company than with your bank.
  • Don’t click on unfamiliar links to sites advertising sales, coupons, etc.  Display ads on social media apps that can execute a drive-by attack when shoppers click on these ads that appear to be legitimate, but then actually direct them to malicious websites.   Try to purchase all goods by navigating directly to the merchant’s website instead of being redirected from a social media ad or an email offer.
  • Make sure to update your operating systems and software (on both mobile and non-mobile devices) and ensure they have the latest security updates.  It’s a good idea to have a reputable antivirus program running on your computer and that your browser has an Ad blocking plug-in. 

By doing a little homework and taking a measured approach to online shopping, you can dodge the in-store crowds and the security risks this holiday season.