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November 22, 2023

How to Safely Shop Online

With the holiday season kicking off, many people are going to be turning online to do their shopping. Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals are great places to save, however, they’re also perfect opportunities for hackers to attempt to steal your information and scam you. Here are some tips on how to stay safe while shopping online.

Online shopping is becoming more and more mainstream and is almost essential when shopping for the holidays. It’s convenient, easy to do, and saves you time and sometimes even money compared to shopping at brick-and-mortar stores. Black Friday and Cyber Monday have evolved into week-long deals that start before even Thanksgiving, and our inboxes are constantly being spammed with the latest and greatest deals and reminders to check out all of the savings. We’re not even safe from it on social media, as scrolling leads to more ads and promotions. This information overload is overwhelming, and hackers take advantage of that to steal your information and scam you. Here are some things to look out for when shopping online or looking for the best deals on items.

Online Deals and Savings

Retailers and other businesses spend a lot of money on advertising this time of year, and you’re constantly exposed to ads online when searching on Google, watching videos, or just scrolling on Instagram. Although many of these deals are legit, and often times good, sometimes you’re exposed to a deal that just seems way too good for something, and in that case, it likely is. Hackers will create fake advertisements that display popular items that are normally rather expensive at huge discounts to try and draw you in. If you click these ads, you’ll be brought to a fake website that appears as some sort of shop, and if you “purchase” the item, what you’re actually doing is providing your personal information including credit card numbers, address, name, and sometimes much more to them, which they’ll turn around and use for themselves. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is, and it’s always a great idea to stick to well known and reputable retailers when shopping online.

Fake Websites

Hackers set up fake websites to attempt to get your personal information. They’ll typically appear as a normal ecommerce website, and you’ll go through the same steps you’d normally go through such as adding items to a cart and checking out, however, when you fill out the payment form at the end instead of purchasing the item, you’re just providing them your personal information. To avoid this, it’s best to stick to well-known sources and retailers when shopping online. This ensures your information is going to trusted sources that will protect it and allows you to check on order and shipping status directly on their sites which ensures you avoid any fake emails as well. If you’re ever on a site that doesn’t “feel” right or it’s something you’ve never heard of, it’s always a good idea to do some research into it as well before providing any of your personal details.

Keep Your Payment Info Secure

Although reputable shopping sites typically have strong payment security and are in compliance with data security regulations, it doesn’t hurt to secure your information further. A great way to do this is to use 3rd party secure payment solutions such as PayPal or Google Pay wherever you can. These solutions add an additional level of security to your payments by encrypting all of your payment data and provide you with receipts for all of your purchases which makes getting a refund easier. Many well-known websites and companies are still vulnerable to cyberattacks and getting hacked, so the more you can control on your end the better.

Gift Card Scams

When it comes to shopping with gift cards there are several things to look out for. One main thing is to make sure that the website doesn’t only accept gift cards. This should immediately be a red flag as no reputable business would accept only gift cards as payment, if anything it would be only credit cards. Usually what this entails is that the website is fraudulent and the hacker or person who set it up is attempting to get your gift card information so they can use it themselves. With the nature of gift card payments, it’s almost impossible to track them and get a refund, so if you fall for this scam, you’ll most likely not be able to get your money back.

Another common holiday scam is for hackers to pose as people in your family, coworkers, and even bosses and ask you to go and purchase gift cards for them. This is a form of a phishing attack, and will usually come from a text message or email, and will usually make the request feel urgent. The hacker will usually then ask you to provide them with the gift card number so they can use it for themselves. The best way to handle this is to check with the person they’re posing as. The best way to do ask is via a phone call as you’ll be able to confirm it’s actually them by hearing their voice.

To Wrap Up

Staying secure online is becoming increasingly important, especially when it comes to shopping. The biggest threat is phishing and fraudulent websites, and the best way to avoid being scammed by them is to always ask questions and stick to reputable retailers and websites when shopping. If you’re receiving shipping information in emails always make sure that the email address is legitimate before clicking on any links, and if you can use a 3rd party payment information application such as PayPal when filling out payment forms on websites. Shopping online is a very convenient and useful way to get everything you need for the holidays, but make sure you’re safe while doing so. If you want some more tips related to shopping online, be sure to check out this video below from Infosec:


Source: Infosec

About the author: Ryan Baars

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