The Internet has always been inundated with scams, but during the holiday shopping season the number of these incidents increases dramatically.
One of the top shopping scams to avoid on Cyber Monday and beyond is the social media fake ads. During any given holiday period there will be an excess of fake offers, deals, and supposed freebies which tend to be a fake. Recently, there has been an increase of fake cruises, bogus free wine deals, and more. If you’re being asked to share something on Facebook in order to get your hands on something too good to be true, you can bet there’s a scam involved.
Bargain hunters, it’s important to know the warning signs. Here’s a guide to safe online shopping on Cyber Monday and beyond.
1. Go directly to a store’s website instead of using search engines to look for deals. If you do happen to find a deal using a search engine, try to verify it by searching for the exact name of the deal in quotes.
2. Avoid pop-ups and other digital ads. Many pop-ups could contain fake coupons, redirect you to malicious sites, or expose you to cross-site scripting attacks. In addition, malvertising is a huge issue for websites right now.
3. Watch out for social media scams, especially on Facebook. Cyber criminals are using fake or compromised Facebook accounts in order to post links to amazing deals that don’t actually exist. They’re especially prone to dropping links on the walls of open groups dedicated to shopping.
4. Delete Cyber Monday emails with attachments. Emails with attachments, especially zip files, are extremely suspect—it’s possible they contain malware. Delete them immediately. If you get an email from a store claiming to have a deal, type the store’s URL directly into your browser instead of clicking on the link. If the site doesn’t verify the deal, you know it’s a fake.
5. Make sure you’re on a secure connection. Look for the padlock icon to the left of the URL when you go to check out. If it’s there, then that means the information passed between a store’s server and your browser remains private. In addition, the URL should read “https” and not just “http.”
6. Do not use debit cards to shop online. Want to give cyber criminals direct access to your bank account? Then by all means, use your debit card! Otherwise, play it safe by using credit cards or a PayPal account that’s linked to a credit card.
7. Avoid using public Wi-Fi to shop. If you’re shopping and entering personal data, best to do it on your secure Wi-Fi connection at home.
8. Watch out for malicious QR codes. QR codes are small, pixelated codes meant to be scanned by a smartphone’s camera. They often contain coupons, links to websites, or other product marketing materials. Some hackers have started creating codes that link to a phishing or malware site, printing them on stickers, and placing them on top of the legit QR codes. Best to avoid them.
9. Don’t give out extra info. If a site starts asking for out-of-the-ordinary personal data, like Social Security numbers or password security questions, slam on the brakes and get out of that site immediately.
10. Tighten up security on your PC before you shop. Make sure all software on your computer is up-to-date, including your OS, browser, and other apps. And if you don’t already have it, install ant-malware software and an ad-blocker to insure maximum coverage. Make sure you run updates on your Anti-Virus software, firewall, and other programs.
Again, we want to emphasize that while cybercriminal activity is extremely high during the Holiday Season. It’s important to stress that developing and practicing good sound online shopping habits should be a year round discipline.
Happy Shopping and Happy Holidays!