The holidays are just around the corner and the rush to purchase gifts online is well under way. While retailers scramble to create eye-catching promotions, deep in the underground, the cyber criminals are planning their schemes to dupe unsuspecting customers out of their cash, credit card details, bank details and personal information.

online shopping for the holidays
JuralMin / Pixabay

Robert O’Brien, the cyber security thought leader explains that “from a hacker’s perspective, online shopping during the holiday period is the consumer equivalent of a watering hole in the Serengeti Desert. The event brings all the prey together”.

It is therefore essential to raise awareness of the tactics that cyber criminals use to scam shoppers. Below are a number of tips for safe shopping online during the holidays.

If It Looks Too Good To Be True… It probably Is!

Cybercriminals act on consumer demand. This is how they attract their prey. If you see an offer like 80% off the latest iPhone, it will likely be a fake offer. Cybercriminals take advantage of people scouring the web for the cheapest deal and for this reason, they try to take advantage.

If you see a website offering extremely low prices on top branded products, do your due diligence by checking reviews online first before entering any personal details like an email address, your delivery address or credit card. If you cannot find any information on that online store, then it is likely to be a fake website.

You should never click on any pop up links on an untrustworthy website as doing so, could trigger the download of a malware file to your computer or mobile device.

Shop Only From Secure Websites

If you are shopping on a website that you are unfamiliar with, you need to check if it is a secure site. Shopping at secure websites helps improve security for providing personal details and making payments.

SSL protected website
skylarvision / Pixabay

The first check that you can do is look at the URL of the website that you are on. If the URL starts with “https://”, then the site is secure and SSL protected. This means information sent over through a transaction or other is encrypted.

If the site was unsecure, the URL would begin with “http://” and it would mean that the information shared with the website could be intercepted as there is no encryption.

A second check that you can do is to look out for a green padlock symbol that would appear next to the URL on your browser.

Watch Out For Social Media Scams

Hackers use social media sites to target their victims because of the number of users that they can target with ads for very little money. Facebook and Twitter are usually the social media sites of choice because of the level of ad targeting that is available. Cyber criminals usually target shoppers and those who interact with top brands in the cosmetics, technology and clothing industries.

It can be difficult to distinguish between real and malicious links on these social media websites, so again, it is essential that you do your due diligence and research the brands you find on social media to see if they are legitimate or not.

Use A Credit Card Not A Debit Card

It is best to use a credit card for making purchases online rather than using a debit card. Credit cards offer additional protection over other forms of payment if hit with a fraudulent purchase. Should there be a fraudulent charge made to your credit card, depending on the protections offered by your bank you will likely get reimbursed quickly.

credit card for shopping
jarmoluk / Pixabay

If you use a debit card to purchase online and a cyber criminal gains access to the card details, they could potentially clear out your personal bank account. If this happens it will be more difficult to get the money reimbursed.

Monitor Your Bank Statements

If you are making many purchases online during the holidays, ensure that you constantly monitor your bank statements for any fraudulent purchases. As it is a busy time for shoppers in general, criminals are known to make small transactions to a card that they gain access to initially. They do this so that such debits go under the radar. After this period where they go undetected, they proceed to make larger debits which could potentially clean out your account.

Those were top tips for shopping safely during the holidays. This should be a fun and exciting time for shoppers. By staying safe online, you can better protect yourself from falling victim to a scam. Remember also to use strong passwords for all your accounts and try to use different passwords for all your accounts to maximise your safety online.