It's the most wonderful time of the year – Black Friday, Cyber Monday, holiday gift-giving season!
For many people, browsing an endless catalogue online is far more appealing than going to a busy shopping mall, where parking is scarce and crowds are enormous.
While online shopping provides the convenience of buying holiday presents from your home, you need to take some precautions to ensure that you have a safe online shopping experience. We suggest that you follow these cyber savvy tips to greatly reduce your chances of becoming a victim of online shopping fraud.
1. Only shop on secure sites In the race to get the best deals online, it's important to stop and inspect the deals you've clicked on, even when you're on an online shopping site you trust.
Many times fake offers and ads lurk even on legitimate websites; ads and banners along the side of sites are often from third parties, so think twice if an offer asks for payment through non-mainstream, non-trusted sites, or asks you to log in to your bank or email to complete a payment.
Before providing any online vendor with your information, check if the page URL has "https" at the beginning of the site address. All legitimate shopping sites will have this for your protection. If you don't see the full five letters, that means the site and any data you share will not be encrypted or secure.
2. Watch out for email discount scams or other phishy messages
More email scammers tend to appear during the holidays, luring shoppers with fake special deals and tricking them into revealing personal information. Don't open an email from a site you haven't visited and do your research on any "special offer" before clicking on any links.
3. Steer clear of phony shopping apps
Only download shopping apps from reliable sources, such as the Apple Store or Google Play. Check the name of the developer, read the online reviews and pay attention to what permissions the app asks for. If something seems off and the app is asking for access to your all contacts, it may be a phony.
4. Update your computer's protection software
Updating your anti-virus or Internet Browser version are small things you can do before shopping online. Cyber security threats are constantly developing and changing, and the latest software updates can protect you from any new attacks.
5. Don't use public Wi-Fi to shop
Public networks are not secured and likely will not encrypt your data. A hacker connected to the same network could capture your identity – whether you're connected through your computer or phone. Although you may want to shop quickly to take advantage of a deal, you should wait until you're home or connected with a protected internet connection.
6. Use a credit card – not debit
In this case, it's okay to pay with plastic. Unlike debit cards, credit cards offer more fraud protection and are not linked to your personal bank account. If someone were to hack your debit or your Paypal account, you would be at a greater risk of losing your information or money.
7. Most importantly, trust your gut
You probably wouldn't shop at a store you don't recognize or simply doesn't seem legitimate. That same gut feeling should apply when shopping online. If anything seems strange or you feel you are giving out too much information, cancel the transaction or immediately leave the site. Your personal and financial information is not worth the risk.