It’s time to start making lists and shopping for gifts, and everyone knows it ¾ including tech thieves and scammers. The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to get ahead of the game with these simple steps. A few minutes of cybersecurity prevention will guarantee you can relax and enjoy your festivities instead of dealing with a financial or privacy nightmare.
Here are some of the most critical safety tips to improve your online holiday shopping.
Double Check Sources Before Clicking on Email Links
Yes, it’s annoying to have to type in “amazon.com” rather than just clicking a link in an email. But when you don’t, you fall for a classic phishing scam. If you click on an email link to a malicious site, it can start an auto download of malware. It’s best to avoid clicking links, instead visit the website directly. If you want to make things easier, save sites as shopping bookmarks in your browser. This is safer than clicking a text or email link. You can often play the sleuth and check the source of the email. If it’s being sent from anything with a unprofessional name, (Jimmy4355@amazonstuff.uko for example), then you can feel confident in reporting it as spam to your email provider.
Use a Wallet App Where Possible
There is always a risk when you give your debit or credit card to a website. It’s even worse during holiday shopping on a site you haven’t purchased from before. Where possible, buy using a wallet app or PayPal. This will keep your payment card details with a company you trust instead of giving them directly to the unknown merchant. Instead, you share them with the wallet app service (Apple Pay, Google Pay, PayPal, etc.). But the retailer doesn’t get them.
Don’t Allow Websites to Save Your Debit and Credit Card Information
Most commercial websites these days will offer to save your account information to enable quick and easy check outs in the future, but this isn’t really doing you a favor. Almost all major companies have been hacked and this problem isn’t going away anytime soon. Plus, we are all at risk for personal information breach as well. The fewer places you allow to store your payment details, the better for your security. When you check out, make sure the “Save This Payment Method” box is unchecked, and if they already have your information stored, as soon you check out, remove your payment card from the site. You will usually need to go to your account settings to do this.
Make Sure the Site Uses HTTPS (Emphasis on “S)
HTTPS has largely become the standard for websites now. This is instead of “HTTP” without the “S” on the end. HTTPS means that a website encrypts the data transmitted through the site. Such as your name, address, and payment information. You should NEVER shop on a website that doesn’t use HTTPS in the address bar. An extra indicator is a small lock icon in front of the website address.
Double Check the Website URL
Small smartphone screens are hard for everyone to type on. One typo can lead to a copycat site with only one or two letters different than the original. Hackers buy domains that are close to the real ones for popular sites like Amazon and Target. Then, they put up copycat sites designed to fool users that make a mistake when typing the URL. Take those extra few seconds to double-check that you’ve landed on the correct website. Do this before you start shopping.
Don’t Fall for Brand Posing Emails & Texts
There was a 397% increase in typo-squatting domains connected to phishing attacks in 2021. These are the typos they are hoping you will type yourself and sometimes they send them directly for you to click on. Hackers use official mailers from real companies as templates. They impersonate brands like Target, UPS, Amazon, and others. The emails can look identical to the real ones. This is another reason why it’s always better to go to a site directly, rather than by using an email or text link.
Never Shop Online When on Public Wi-Fi
When you connect your device to public Wi-Fi, you are opening your front door and inviting hackers into your bank accounts. Hackers will hang out in popular public Wi-Fi spots and wait for bored customers to start filling their shopping carts in their down time. It’s not difficult for even beginners with bad intentions to spy on the network activities of other users on the same wifi connection. This can give them access to everything from passwords and credit card information to your photos. Never shop online when you’re connected to a public Wi-Fi network. Instead, switch off Wi-Fi and use a mobile carrier’s connection.
Sign Up for Free Credit Monitoring and Bank Alerts
This is a great time of year to sign up for free credit monitoring through your favorite bank or credit card. Set up their apps on your smart phone so it’s easier to watch for any suspicious charges that could signal someone has access to your account. Banking alerts through your online banking app.
For example, many banks allow you to set up alerts for events such as:
- When a purchase occurs over a specified dollar amount
- When a purchase occurs from outside the country
Check for Device Updates Before You Shop
Computers, tablets, and smartphones that have old software are vulnerable. While you may not want to wait through a 10-minute iPhone update, it’s going to keep you more secure.
Hackers often use vulnerabilities found in device operating systems. Updates install patches for known vulnerabilities, reducing your risk. Make sure to install all updates before you use your device for online holiday shopping.
How Secure Is Your Device?
Mobile malware is often deployed in holiday shopping scams. How secure is your device from malicious apps and malware? SimplicIT is your local IT support company and can help if you feel your network has been attacked or run a PenTest to evaluate vulnerable areas. Contact us for your free PenTest and in-person evaluation.