Elf shopping

That’s When We’re Most Easily Fooled

One in three American adults (34%) admit to taking more risks when online shopping during holiday season compared to other times of the year … 36% of Americans have fallen victim to online shopping scams during the holidays, losing $387 on average … most frequently cybercriminals connected with them via email (40%), through social media (38%), third-party websites (32%), texts (28%) or phone calls (23%).1

Along with whatever else the holidays bring, they also now bring a pile of socially-engineered attacks aimed at taking our credentials and money. Cybercriminals have developed clever ways of tricking us into falling for a “good buy” from a well-known brand like Costco or Lowe’s – but it’s really a trap.

Feel like Christmas Is Coming Early?

The more you know about avoiding cyber-scams, the less likely you are to make a mistake that can cost your personal information and money. The following are some ways that may help you see if an inexpensive site is legit.

  • Make sure the site does not have a strange-looking domain name. If you click on a link that leads you to what looks like a legitimate site, like amaazon.com, for example, this could lead to a security breach (bad grammar and misspellings are two tell-tales that a site is fraudulent and is not to be trusted). “From there, the site either asks for personally identifiable information that criminals can sell on the black market … or it requests your credit card to purchase the item. You’re charged the full amount, but the item never arrives.”2 This is a good reason to use an automated password manager. It won’t be fooled by a misspelled domain name.
  • Stick with well-known brands and reputable websites. This makes it easy to shop smarter and feel like you are purchasing more securely while making your holiday gift choices. While being vigilant, you will know exactly from where your purchases come as better site security puts your mind at ease.
  • Often, when a trusted brand shows up on your screen, “that trust can be exploited by people looking to perpetrate online payment scams,” according to Daniel Kline, Managing Editor of TheStreet. “Criminals often use well-known brands to lure people,” he adds.3
  • Check the age of an unfamiliar site. This will give you an idea, according to the number of days or years, how long the company has been in business and could show something about the site’s reputation. Enter the domain name in websiteseochecker.com/domain-age-checker/.
  • SSL encryption is no guarantee of legitimacy. Although important, it can give the false sense that you’re not dealing with cyber thieves. Sometimes criminals pay for an SSL certificate or use a free https://letsencrypt.org certificate.
  • Anti-virus software should be kept updated to keep you safe from destructive malware. Arm each of your devices with a product that checks websites and apps for viruses and spyware, in addition to blocking unsecured websites.
  • If you are not convinced of a site’s validity, search the site name on Bing, Google or DuckDuckGo and look for possible red flags.

Check Your Bank and Credit Card Statements

Hold onto your receipts, warranty and return information. If there is ever a discrepancy between your receipt and your bank statement you will be able to provide proof of purchase. Warranty and return information should be kept in a place where they cannot be altered or destroyed. Discard them when they are no longer valid.

Credit card data are a favorite of malicious thieves who take advantage of consumers in a world where it was once seemingly safe to shop online. Watch for illegal activity on your bank statement. If something is inaccurate, immediately call the bank. Pay credit card bills only if you know all the charges are accurate. There is a grace period of 30 days to rectify the disputed charges.

Credit cards are, however, the preferred way to shop if you wish to have extra security. They have extra legal defenses over debit cards. Any dispute should be reported in a timely manner in order to resolve the problem. Credit cards do not hold you liable if you are the victim of a fraudulent purchase. Banks are more protective of credit card accounts since it is their money you’re paying the sites with, not yours.

Stay Jolly, My Friends

Being aware and a little less naive online, you can steer clear of much of the grief of cybercriminals’ ploys and have yourself a merry little Christmas.

1 https://www.darkreading.com/risk/online-holiday-shopping-frenzy-study-shows-1-in-3-americans-tend-to-take-more-risks-when-shopping-online-during-holiday-season
2 https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-avoid-holiday-scams-11638474251
3 https://www.thestreet.com

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