Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving when companies “go into the black,” thanks to the start of the holiday shopping season, and it has evolved with the times. Now that much of our shopping occurs online, vendors offer Black Friday deals on online purchases. These often occur on Cyber Monday, which is three days later and involves no risk of being crushed under throngs of deal-seekers in a Walmart.
But with all that money flying around the internet, cybercriminals are not far behind, and there is an uptick of scams and cyberattacks. That’s why it’s important to practice extra caution during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Here are five practical online shopping tips to keep you and your bank account safe during the two busiest shopping days of the year.
1. Only shop on secure sites
Shopping on big name websites is usually safe, but with smaller vendors and independent merchants, there is a risk of data breach. Often the website isn’t malicious, just poorly secured, meaning any personal or financial information you give them may not be safe.
Make sure that the websites you visit are encrypted so that cybercriminals can’t snoop on your activity. You can do this by checking the URL to see if the site encrypts your data. It should begin with “https://” and often, there is a little visual cue from your browser that the website is safe. In Google Chrome, it is a little padlock next to the URL on the address bar.
2. Be careful on social media
You may not have to worry about encryption on social media, but its lack of regulation and unlimited user base makes it a hotbed of scams and other online attacks. If you see a deal on social media that is too good to be true, it likely is. Keep an eye out for suspicious signs, such as strange usernames or unfamiliar URLs. Check any suspicious profiles carefully, and avoid links to anywhere but trusted platforms, like etsy or eBay. When in doubt, close the social media app and visit the official online shopping website instead.
3. Use a credit card whenever possible
Even if you do everything right, there is a possibility that a cybercriminal acquires your payment credentials or compromises a platform that has them. If you are using a debit card or similar method, such as PayPal, there isn’t much you can do about fraudulent charges made by the thief — at least, nothing that is fast or easy. With a credit card, the card company or bank can usually just reimburse your right away or cancel the charge.
4. Beware of malicious emails
The influx of special offers and deals during Black Friday and Cyber Monday mean you’re likely to get inundated with promotional emails. Cybercriminals know this, and will try and slip in their own malicious message in hopes that they can blend in and get clicked. The same best practices apply here when checking a work email for phishing attempts. Look out for:
- Email addresses that don’t match who the sender claims to be
- Spelling or grammatical errors in the message
- Odd formatting that lacks product images or branding
- Strange and/or low-quality images that don’t match the vendor
- Links to unfamiliar or suspicious sites that the message keeps highlighting
Be especially careful of messages claiming you have won some kind of prize or are eligible for a special time limited deal. When in doubt, delete a suspicious email or, at the very least, research the company online to see if the deal is legitimate.
5. Keep an eye on your financial statements
Once your shopping for the season is complete, check your credit card statement as soon as you can. This way, you can match up purchases with charges and make sure you are only paying for what you bought. Cybercriminals know you’re making a lot of purchases around this time, so even if there are no large fraudulent charges, they might hope that smaller charges will go unnoticed.
The holidays can be particularly scary when cybercriminals are always looking for an angle to steal your hard-earned cash and sensitive data. Fortunately, with Refresh Technologies’ cybersecurity expertise, you can protect your most valuable assets. Call us now to learn more.