The holiday shopping season is upon us. As the pandemic pushes retailers to introduce deals early, “Black Friday” will likely span the several weeks leading up to Christmas. With the shopping season transforming into one long “Cyber Monday,” scammers are gearing up to take advantage of the massive influx of online shoppers. It is crucial that we all take e-commerce security precautions in order to protect ourselves and our data in a time of newfound vulnerabilities.
1. Watch where you shop
Many products are in short supply, leading shoppers to browse unfamiliar sites and online stores. Without evidence of a seller’s long-term reputable history, think twice before sharing your data. Scammers pose as established sites by creating fake email ads and links. Be on the lookout for phony sites to avoid unintentionally handing over your credit card details to a scam operation.
2. Update your computer and antivirus
Make sure your phone, tablet, and computer are refreshed with up-to-the-minute versions of security software and system patches. Updates address the latest viruses, bugs, and protection gaps, but unless you download and apply them, you are not protected. If you are operating on outdated software, we recommend restarting your device, which should prompt the update option. Alternatively, you can check for updates by clicking the software icon on your desktop while connected to a network.
3. Be careful while browsing in public spaces
For the most part, we are all at home, connecting via safe, familiar Wi-Fi networks. However, if you venture out for a socially-distanced coffee and are using the café Wi-Fi, be on guard. Do not shop or share personal data while using a public network and be vigilant of suspicious behavior on your device thereafter. Criminals use the guise of free Wi-Fi to trick people into connecting to malicious hotspots. These networks appear legitimate, and you may not realize that your device has been compromised. Even if you access the right network, you will not know what precautions and security protocols are in place. The data you are sending from your device, such as a credit card number, could be intercepted as you purchase this year’s hottest gifts.
4. Beware of “coupons” from random search engines and suspicious emails
We all love a good deal! But be careful. Scammers target victims with fake click-bait ads and emails designed to look authentic and trustworthy. Think before you click, even on social media platforms. Does it sound too good to be true? Is the caption riddled with typos? You can often identify a scam email by its email address. If it ends with unfamiliar letters or just looks strange, trust your gut and steer clear.
5. Check your credit card statements regularly
Thanks to online banking, we can consistently check our accounts and statements. Generally, this is best practice, but it is especially important during the holiday season when scammers are increasingly active and consumers are distracted with shopping lists. If you see something suspicious, contact your credit card company immediately. They will prevent further damage and get you shopping safely again.