Picture it: It’s 3am, on and your alarm obnoxiously begins to beep at you. It’s pitch black outside. You groggily start the coffee pot, and attempt to shake the lingering feeling of sleepiness off, as you mentally try to prepare yourself for the battle that lays before you.
Bumper to bumper traffic. Crowded parking lots. Crazy shoppers. Fights in every aisle……doesn’t this all sound fun??
While a handful of consumers may prefer this “hands on” approach to Black Friday shopping, the majority of us prefer the convenience of online shopping, right in the comfort of our own home from our laptops, tablets, or smart phones. The same incredible deals, bargains and discounts apply, but there are no long lines to wait in, and no angry customers to collide with.
With identity theft at an all time high, shopping securely and safely, especially on high risk dates such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, has never been more important. However, shopping online can in many cases, be more secure than cashing out in a physical store location.
Take these 8 easy tips into account in order to protect yourself this holiday season and beyond!
- Shop on Secure Websites: Vendors and suppliers that have an encrypted shopping cart and a secure checkout process will have an “https” in the address bar, as opposed to “http”. Be sure to look for this when you are checking out online.
- Beware of Emails: Email has become one of the most popular forms of marketing for most brands. Receiving an email that notifies you that Old Navy is offering 50% off all denim, or Target has BOGO sneakers is great information to learn. It could appear that an email came from a credible organization. However, never click any links or images in the email itself- you could end up installing malware or ransomware. This is the easiest way for a hacker to implement malware on a device. Instead, type the web address directly into your browser and shop from there.
- Choose Secure Networks: Especially when shopping on mobile devices. Consumers shopping on cell phones or tablets are extra susceptible to identity theft, or other related scams. Never select a public network when shopping from your mobile device, as they are unsecured, making your credit card vulnerable. When connecting to WiFi, always choose a network with a padlock next to the network name, guaranteeing security.
- Protect your Personal Information: Be cautious of any website that requests personal information, such as social security number, birthday, account numbers, routing numbers, even loyalty account numbers as these are almost always phishing scams. Phishing is a form of fraud in which the hacker masquerades as a reputable entity, person, or source in email or other communication channels.
- Watch out for Social Media Scams: Hackers are now targeting Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn as avenues for scamming consumers. A new hacking trick is to send messages that appear to come from the social media platforms themselves, but the URLs and hyperlinks in the message lead to fake pages. Be sure to hover over links sent from social media sites, to reveal the actual web address itself. Often times, hackers can reverse engineer your user name and password for social media sites for credit cards or bank accounts.
- Check the Headers of Emails:The headers of the email could be one character off, but look similar. Pay close attention to the email address it appears to be coming from – they will often replace letters with special characters, or capitalize one letter. Hover over links that you are unsure of before clicking on them. Do they lead where they are supposed to lead? A phishing email may claim to be from a legitimate company and when you click the link to the website, it may look exactly like the real website. The email may ask you to fill in the information, but the email may not contain your name. Most phishing emails will start with “Dear Customer” so you should be alert when you come across these emails.
- Vary your Passwords: In terms of remembering your password, the easiest thing to do would be to choose one password and use it for everything. However, if a hackers compromises one account, chances are, they can easily access other accounts almost instantaneously if all passwords are the same. Especially on days such as Black Friday, or Cyber Monday, a hacker can do serious damage in a matter of minutes while shopping with your credit card. Best practice is to vary your passwords, and if needed, write them down and keep them in a safe place.
- Read Reviews: One of the most helpful ways to ensure safe shopping is to read the experiences of other consumers. Reviewing product rating, or seller rating can be incredible useful in deciding whether or not to make a purchase online.