How to Avoid Online Shopping Scams During the Holidays

Nov 14, 2023 | Cyber Security

The holiday season is a time for festivities, fun, and frivolity, but it’s also fraught with increased online scams. As we immerse ourselves in the digital age, cybercriminals are honing their skills to exploit the holiday spirit for their own gain. Fear not, though, for with a few precautions and a dash of cyber-savvy, you can navigate the online waters safely and protect yourself from falling victim to holiday scams that could otherwise result in identity theft.

Strengthen Your Digital Armor

Just as you wouldn't leave your house without locking the door, don't venture into the online world without securing your digital fortress. Update your antivirus software, enable firewalls, and ensure your operating system and applications are up-to-date. Cybersecurity may not be as tangible as a physical lock, but it's your first defense against digital intruders.

Think Before You Click

Our inboxes are bombarded with enticing offers, promotions, and last-minute deals during the holiday season. While they may seem enticing, making you want to read them all, not all that glitters is gold. Exercise caution before clicking links or downloading attachments, especially if the email comes from an unknown sender or seems too good to be true. Cybercriminals often use phishing emails that direct you to fake websites to lure unsuspecting victims into providing personal information.

Secure Your Online Purchases

'Tis the season for scammers to harvest sensitive information from online stores. Only use secure websites with "https://" in the URL when purchasing online. The "s" stands for "secure," which means the site has special encryption to ward off identity theft.

Also, check the domain name to be sure it’s an authentic website. Avoid public Wi-Fi for financial transactions, as it may not be as secure as you think. Additionally, consider using a credit card on shopping sites instead of a debit card, as credit cards often offer better fraud protection. Or you could use a third-party app such as Venmo or Paypal with built-in security features.

Scrutinize Social Media Sharing

We love sharing our holiday plans and gifts on social media, but be mindful of what you disclose. Oversharing can make you a target for cybercriminals looking to exploit personal information. Adjust your privacy settings to limit the audience for your posts, and think twice before broadcasting travel plans or showcasing high-value gifts.

Monitor Your Financial Statements

Keep a close eye on your bank and credit card statements, especially during the holiday season. Regularly review transactions to spot any unauthorized or suspicious activity quickly. The sooner you detect and report potential fraud, the better your chance of minimizing the damage.

Use Strong Passwords And Multi-Factor Authentication

Strong passwords are essential for protecting your online accounts from scammers. Use a unique password for each of your online accounts, and make sure your passwords are strong and difficult to guess.

You should also enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) on your online accounts. MFA adds an extra layer of security to your accounts by requiring you to enter a code from your phone in addition to your password when you log in.

Be Wary Of Unsolicited Emails And Texts

Scammers often send phishing emails and texts that look like they're from legitimate companies, such as shipping carriers, banks, or credit card companies. The emails or texts may contain links or attachments that, when clicked on, can install malware on your device or steal your personal information.

If you receive an unsolicited email or text from a company you do business with, don't click on any links or attachments. Instead, go to the company's website and log in to your account. Contact the company's customer service department immediately if you see any suspicious activity.

Research Retailers Before Shopping

Before you purchase from an online retailer, take some time to research the company. Ensure the retailer has a good reputation and that their website is secure. Look for reviews from other customers and check to see if the retailer is accredited by any reputable organizations.

Legitimate online retailers such as Amazon and others will have plenty of ways for you to verify they are authentic websites and not scams.

You can also check the retailer's website for their contact information. If you can't find a phone number or email address, that's a red flag. Legitimate retailers should have easy-to-find contact information so customers can get help if they have any problems.

Be Careful About Clicking On Links In Social Media Posts

Scammers often use social media to spread phishing links and malware. If you see a link in a social media post that looks too good to be true, it probably is. Don't click on it!

If you're curious about a product or service advertised on social media, go to the company's website directly and type the URL into your browser. Don't click on the link in the social media post.

Text messages from supposed online retailers can also be phishing. Most legitimate retailer websites don’t contact customers via text unless you have signed up for text messages.

Be Careful About Using Public Wi-Fi

Public Wi-Fi networks are often unsecured, so scammers can easily intercept traffic and steal personal information. If you need public Wi-Fi, avoid accessing sensitive information like your bank or credit card accounts.

If you need to access sensitive information on public Wi-Fi, use a VPN (virtual private network). A VPN encrypts your traffic, making it much more difficult for scammers to intercept.

Be Suspicious Of Deals That Seem Too Good To Be True

Scammers often use the lure of amazing deals to trick people into giving up their money or personal information. If you see a deal that seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Do some research to see if the deal is legitimate. If you can't find any information about the deal or the company offering it, that's a red flag.

Beware Of Charity Scams

The holidays are a popular time for charity scams. Scammers often create fake charities or use the names of legitimate charities to trick people into donating money.

Before you donate to any charity, research to ensure it's legitimate. You can check with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) or Charity Navigator to see if the charity has a good reputation.

If You Think You've Been Scammed, Report It Immediately

You can report scams to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the BBB. Both of these organizations are dedicated to consumer protection. Reporting known scams to your state’s attorney general’s office is also good.

Following these tips can help protect yourself from online scams, especially during the holidays.

Educate Your Loved Ones

Spread the holiday cyber awareness by sharing these tips with your friends and family. Cybercriminals often target the less tech-savvy, so a little knowledge can protect your loved ones from falling victim to online scams.

Wrap It Up

As you navigate the festive cyber sea this holiday season, remember that vigilance, digital hygiene, and awareness are your best defense against online scams. By implementing these precautions and staying informed, you can ensure a secure and joyous celebration without the unwelcome presence of cyber grinches.

May your holidays be merry, bright, and digitally safe!

  • holiday shopping
  • online shopping
  • cyber security

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