In an ongoing effort to elude this year’s frustrating shipping delays, more consumers are turning to the web for what they may see as easy answers to the holiday hassle. Vasu Jakkal VP Microsoft Security said that with “headlines about supply chain issues, worker shortages and costs rising … it’s no surprise that … at least sixty-three percent of holiday shopping will be done online.”1
Despite consumers looking to their devices for peace with their shopping experience, cybercriminals make hay out of desperate late holiday shoppers. Cyber-scammers have developed newer and more clever ways of tricking consumers into believing that what they see online is what they get. Deceptive deals are often presented to online shoppers by hackers with terms like “low availability” or refer to the product as a “good buy.”
If It Seems Too Good …
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 really going to give you what you want.
- 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
- 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 they use a free https://letsencrypt.org certificate.2 Let’s encrypt is a great initiative to get encryption in wide use, but its certificates are limited to 90-day periods — how perfect for setting up a site just for the holidays.
- 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.
… Then Check Your Bank 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 they have an investment with the buyer.
And a Happy Online to You!
Purchasing gifts online should be easy and enjoyable. You’re able to avoid crowds and long lines and instead shop from the comfort of home. And maybe get a real bargain. Technology does not have to be a forum for bad business, although there will always be bad guys trying to steal your information and hard-earned dollars. But by remaining street-smart and just a little less computer-naive, you can rest assured that your vital information will remain safe online.