Keeping holiday shopping cybersafe
Black Friday, Cyber Monday and holiday shopping are almost upon us. Many of us enjoy the pleasure and convenience of shopping online from the comfort of home. You don’t have to battle any crowds or worry about fitting your shopping into store hours. You can shop at midnight in your pyjamas! But don’t be lulled into a false sense of security just because you’re within the cozy confines of home. Online activity puts us at risk of scams, identity theft and credit card fraud. Cybercriminals are out there on the prowl, lying in wait to pounce when you let your guard down. Make sure you don’t get caught. Read on for handy tips on how to protect yourself.
Get a lock on secure URLs
Everyone is always on the lookout for the hottest deals and lowest prices, so you might be tempted to shop on sites you’re not familiar with. As a best practice, it’s better to stick to retailers you know and trust—especially for big-ticket items like electronics. But if there’s a deal you simply can’t resist, it’s easy enough to check if a website is secure. First, look to see if there’s a locked padlock at the beginning of the URL. Then, see if the web address starts with “https” rather than simply “http.” The “s” stands for secure, and it means that all your data and communication with the website is encrypted and secure. While this is very important, you should be aware that this still isn’t a guarantee that the site is legitimate—but it’s your first line of defence.
You can also dig a little deeper by doing any or all of the following three searches:
- “Brand x + reviews”
- “Brand x + scam”
- “Brand x + fraud”
Does sumthing look off to you?
Remember how you were taught in elementary school that spelling and grammar are important? The same holds true as a clue regarding whether or not a website is legit. But is it because scammers have never heard of spellcheck? You may be surprised to learn that the mistakes are actually there on purpose, and not because scammers have a poor command of the language. If you’re the kind of person who recognizes these “typos,” then you’re just not the scammer’s type. This indicates to them that you’re less likely to be tricked, and they won’t waste their time and effort on you. If, however, you don’t notice the errors, then you’re a prime candidate to be duped out of your money.
Special delivery—or is it?
During peak shopping periods like the holidays, it’s easy to lose track of what parcels and packages you’re expecting. That’s what fraudsters are counting on! You may get texts or emails like: Your package is ready to be shipped. Your remaining postage cost is $3. This payment must be completed within 24 hours. The message will usually have a sense of urgency, contain requests to obtain money, and include deceptive links, so beware. Attachments may contain malware and links may direct you to malicious websites. Think before you click!
Take credit for being a wise shopper
When it comes to paying for your online purchases, adopt these smart practices:
- Pay with a credit card rather than your debit card—it often offers better fraud protection
- Never autosave your credit card information or passwords in your web browser—it may be convenient, but it isn’t safe
- Don’t make purchases using public Wi-Fi—but if that’s your only option, you can use a VPN
- If a site asks for something other than a credit card, debit card or PayPal—like a wire transfer or money order—don’t give it to them
- If you’re asked for your social insurance number or other information like your mother’s maiden name, don’t go any further
This shopping season, beware of seasonal scams like fake e-cards and fake charity donation scams. If a price is too good to be true, then there’s probably something phishy going on. For added peace of mind, check out my Identity for identity theft coverage and cyber protection. Above all, trust your instincts. Happy shopping!