As we move into the week of Thanksgiving in the US, some of us start thinking about eating, family and football; not necessarily in that order. Others start thinking about shopping for the holidays.
Next week is Cyber Monday and I think it’s a little easier on the feet and constitution than Black Friday. I would rather go online and go after all the bargains, rather than waiting in line and fighting all the crazy people out there trying to get $50 off a television. But to each his or her own.
As with anything online, you need to take the good with the bad. There will be a lot of great deals from reputable sites, but watch out for scams. Online scammers try to game the search engines with “legitimate” bargains. You search for a bargain and the link takes you to a site that looks legitimate. Check to see that it is a legitimate merchant before you buy anything. Some are just sites with malware that could wreak havoc on your computer.
Also look out for social media, text and email scams. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are popular targets. A seemingly great offer for a discounted service or product will first ask for personal information. This is a basic phishing scam to get you to give up personal information that results in targeted attacks. If you see something that looks too good to be true, it probably is. It may have come from a hacked account, so beware. As usual, the goal is to get you to part with your money.
Here are 10 tips to keep you safe while online shopping:
- Conduct research: When using a new website for purchases, read reviews and see if other consumers have had a positive or negative experience with the site.
- When in doubt, throw it out: Links in emails, posts and texts are often how cyber criminals try to steal your information or infect your devices.
- Personal information is like money: value it and protect it: When making a purchase online, only provide information required to complete the transaction. You only need to fill out required fields at checkout.
- Use safe payment options: Credit cards are generally the safest option because they allow you to seek a credit from the issuer if there is a problem. Your liability is also limited if someone steals your credit card information.
- Protect your $$: When shopping, check to be sure the site is security enabled. Look for URLs with https:// to help secure your information.
- Now you see me, now you don’t: Some stores and other locations look for devices with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth turned on to track your movements while you are within range. Disable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when not in use.
- Get savvy about Wi-Fi hotspots: Limit the type of business you conduct over open public Wi-Fi connections, including logging on to key accounts, such as email and banking. Adjust the security settings on your device to limit who can access your phone.
- Keep a clean machine: Keep all web-connected devices, including PCs, smartphones and tablets, free from malware and infections by running only the most current versions of software and apps.
- Get two steps ahead: Turn on two-factor authentication on accounts where available. It adds a layer of protection beyond login ID and password.
- Create better passwords: If your passwords are weak, improve them by adding capital letters, numbers and symbols and using different passwords for every account.
Shopping online is a great way to get some bargains and save time. Enjoy yourself, but keep safe. You worked hard for your money, so don’t let scammers and cyber criminals get you to part with it.
Photo credit Kevin Galens