A 2019 survey by TransUnion on retail fraud reported that around 75% of Americans opted to do about half of their holiday shopping online. While the ongoing pandemic is a great excuse for Americans to skip the long lines and spend more time clicking on deals on their computers or tap to buy things using their smartphones, it’s also a perfect opportunity for cybercriminals to defraud online consumers of their hard-earned money using different tactics.
Luckily, there are many ways to stay safe from fraudsters while online shopping for Black Friday and even Cyber Monday. While you will certainly be bombarded with tempting promos on the internet, don’t let these get in the way of being safe from cybercriminals. Here are some of the common ways to be safe while shopping online.
- Beware of phishing emails
Phishing emails are one way for cybercriminals to obtain sensitive information, such as card details, addresses, and passwords, from unwitting consumers. Usually, phishing emails disguise themselves as newsletters or promotional material with a link that could either release malware or take you to a false portal that asks for your details. These emails could also contain attachments which hide malware.
While these types of emails usually end up in your email’s spam folders, if you ever encounter these types of emails, you should check with the retailer the email is claiming to represent to see if the deals and promos that the email is advertising is legitimate. Do not open links or attachments from emails from people that you do not know personally.
- Use a credit card when buying
While using a credit card for online shopping seems counterintuitive when you want to steer clear of fraudsters, several experts actually recommend using credit cards instead of debit cards for some reasons. For one, the Fair Credit Billing Act states that consumers are only liable for up to $50 for fraudulent charges. In addition, many major credit card companies have a “zero liability policy” where customers do not need to pay anything for any fraud. Some banks even reimburse customers for any fraudulent charges made using their credit cards. Credit cards also offer additional protection for payments and it is harder to claim stolen money from debit cards once fraudsters get details from them.
- Create strong passwords
Creating a strong password is not just meant for securing your social media accounts. This tip could also be helpful in protecting your information from any attempts by cybercriminals to steal them. If possible, change your password regularly and do not use the same password for the same website or account. If you are willing to spend some cash, you could also use a password manager to store your passwords safely and create unique, secure passwords whenever you need it.
- Keep your browser and antivirus software up-to-date
This advice may seem cliché for most people, but it pays to keep your browser and antivirus software updated regularly. For one, additional features that offer greater security and protection for your accounts are added more and more often to your browser and to your antivirus software. Updating your browser and your antivirus software allows you to take advantage of these security features and make your shopping experience more secure.
- Use VPN when connecting to public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi is not encrypted and secure, making them vulnerable to attacks from cybercriminals since they don’t need a password to connect to them. Since this is the case, it is not highly recommended to use public Wi-Fi when shopping online. If possible, use your own private Wi-Fi connection or your mobile data. However, if you really need to use public Wi-Fi to buy something online, you can use a Virtual Private Network or VPN to encrypt your browsing activity and history to keep your information safe.
When shopping online during Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and other holidays, no one needs to compromise their safety and security online just to get the best deals around. You can still shop online without having to experience the pain of having your delicate data stolen. While there are many more tips to be safe while shopping online, you can still protect yourself from fraud by following the simple tips provided above.