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Cyber Threats on the Rise Alongside Increased Holiday Shopping Online

Due to the seemingly never-ending pandemic and many states tightening already strict restrictions on the way retail businesses can operate, it comes as no surprise that so much of the Holiday shopping that comes with this time of year will be taking place online. Even pre-pandemic online shopping for holidays like Christmas and Hanukkah had steadily been on the rise for years now as so many individuals preferred to opt for gifts being delivered to their homes rather than being stuck in doorbuster lines for hours on end after a big Thanksgiving meal. In fact, retail shopping online overall more than doubled from 2016 to 2019 with trends to more than triple the 2016 figure but just next year.

Be wary of unfamiliar sites and their too good to be true deals. The truth is, if those deals seem too good to be true, they almost always are in fact too good to be real. Two of the most popular gifts being bought this Holiday season are the hotly anticipated and very difficult to find in stock Play Station 5 and Xbox S/X Series. Cyber criminals are very aware of the lack of availability of these consoles and are preying on desperate parents and significant others trying to buy these for their gamer guy or girl. Fraudulent listings for each of these consoles have been found all over the Internet with many people falling victim and paying a hefty price in the process.

When there is a hotly anticipated item such as these new gaming consoles or any high demand gift, it is best to follow a few key tips to help avoid further mental and financial stress:

  • Research the company before purchasing – If you’ve never heard of them before or if there are not clear ways to contact their customer service department, do not trust or buy from that company — though you may feel relief at finding that gift available somewhere, it is likely a scam and your money will be lost.
  • Pay close attention to pricing differences – The makers of these consoles are very transparent about how much these items cost, it’s listed clearly on their websites as well as on the approved third-party seller sites like Best Buy or Walmart. If you find a PS5 for example that is $200 (compared to the listed selling price of $400-$500), this deal is too good to be true — no one would purchase such an in demand item and sell it at a loss. All you will get if you enter your credit card information trying to buy something here, is stolen financial information and a whole lot of headaches.
  • Do not impulse buy – Though this one can be hard, with retailers selling out of the consoles in seconds each time they become available, it is better to miss out on a sale than to rush to get your desired item. You may see some websites with things like “flash sales” that entice you to buy now but just as with any other time of the year, when you’re being rushed to buy or do something online, there is likely a scammer behind it all. It’s better to have to think up another gift (though that may be difficult) than to rush and lose your money and information.

Do not use social media accounts to register for other websites. When checking out through an online retailer, they often want you to sign up for their website so that they can inundate your email folders with future sales offers and remind you that you loved that product you bought for your great aunt a few years ago so you should buy from them again! While many of us opt to simply login with our Google or Facebook accounts because it’s a couple quick clicks and then we can be done with that purchase, these sites often offer up more information than is needed by a company you are purchasing goods or services from. Your PII, or personally identifiable information, should not be given freely to these companies as they do not need it, and should this company experience some sort of data breach in the future, you should obviously want as little of your information to have been exposed as possible.

Employ strong password security practices, as always. While this is always at the base layer of strong cybersecurity best practices, it bears repeating — use strong, unique passwords for every site and utilize two-factor authentication when available. By using strong passwords that are unique to each retailer’s website, you avoid exposing further data should one of these companies encounter a data breach. By using two-factor authentication, meaning two means of logging into a website, you can avoid getting your information stolen even in the event of a data breach.

The best thing to do as always when navigating the online world is to be cautious and protect yourself to the best of your ability at all times. This can be a stressful time of year regardless, but with the pandemic, there’s that added layer and folks are exhausted — try your best to stay vigilant and safe but remember the reason for the season is not gifts, but peace of mind.

Image by ijeab for Freepik.