As if the internet weren’t already a scary enough place, with cybercriminals lurking everywhere and unleashing malware at the rate of hundreds of thousands a day, the holiday season can be the stuff of nightmares. Cybercriminals really ramp up their wicked game on CyberMonday and during the holiday season – knowing full well more people are shopping online.
Their goal – the dupe you into giving them what they love most – your personal information. With it, they can scam you a thousand ways to Tuesday. But there are ways to protect yourself – and most involve simply being aware of their schemes and tactics.
Watch for emailed coupons that claim to come from a legitimate retailer. You’ll most likely see it in your email as a notification from someone you’ve done business with before, but in this case, the sender might be waving a $100 coupon in front of you. When you click to redeem it, you’ve just opened yourself up to malware that can give cybercrimnals access to your private information.
Keep your eyes open for fakers. Many fraudsters will play with the spelling of popular sites, such as Amazon or Walmart by adding a letter, word or phrase, such as Amaazon.com or Walmart-outlet.ct. And, with URL shorteners being so prevalent, it’s easy to fall prey to a fake site that doesn’t have the typical “.com” extension. Again, visiting such a site can be dangerous.
Be Reasonable. Be Wise. Would Target reeeeally be sending you a $100 gift card for no reason? Redeeming such offers will require you to go to a site where you’ll be asked to enter your email address and password. Legitimate sites will never ask you for that info, or your SS #, bank account info, etc.
Watch for notices from “delivery companies.” Chances are, you’ve ordered something online this season. Scammers know this, so you might receive a delivery notice from “Fed-Ex” that turns out to be a phishing scam – and a common one and lucrative one (for crooks). If any such email you receive has a hyperlink or attachment, delete it and move on.
Ignore pop-ups. Say you’re on the web and an ad offering you a discount code or a coupon pops up … don’t bite! They’ll likely redirect you to a malicious site or release a bug that makes your device vulnerable to attack.
Surf and shop securely. Try to avoid using public wi-fi to shop, as cybercriminals have new and effective ways to break into what you think is a secure network. Also, whenever you’re ready to checkout, make sure you’re indeed on a secure connection; look for the padlock icon to the left of the URL. If it’s there, the info you send is safe. The URL should also read “https” and not simply “http.” That S means “secure.”
Finally, secure your device. Make sure your computer – and your phone and tablet – is as secure as possible before you shop. Update your software, including your operating system, browser and related apps; this helps ensure that all patches – protecting against bugs and vulnerabilities – are installed.
With forethought, common sense and knowledge, you can have a safe shopping experience CyberMonday and through the holiday season.