Holiday shopping events, like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Singles Day and Chinese New Year give online consumers the world over a chance to spend—and save—billions during the gift-giving season. Unfortunately, cybercriminals also use these occasions to prey on those who are too distracted by deals and discounts to realize they’re at risk.
Countless numbers of online shoppers are victimized by scammers during these annual sales events. Here are some tips to help you protect yourself.
Consider the Source
Scammers succeed by tricking online shoppers into thinking they’re legitimate. When you come across a deal online, the first thing you should do is consider where it came from. If it arrived in your email spam folder, be wary. Many cybercrimes start with phishing emails that mimic big-name retailers, and they usually end up here.
Ads or offers that come to you through social media platforms should also be treated with skepticism. Scammers often use sites like Facebook and Twitter to disguise their efforts. Rather than clicking on these potentially harmful offers, try to find them on the legitimate seller’s website.Protect yourself this gift-giving season. The signs of online scams can be easy to spot if you know what to look for. #cybersecurityClick To Tweet
Know the Signs
Although cybercriminals are constantly refining their phishing emails, fake ads, and fraudulent websites, there are signs you can look for to spot them. If the sender’s email address doesn’t reflect the company name, it’s likely a fake. Spelling and grammar mistakes are another red flag.
While holiday offers generally don’t last long, deals with an extremely small window of opportunity and a high sense of urgency are usually an invitation to trouble.
When visiting online retailers, look for the ‘https’ prefix, the word ‘secure’, a padlock icon or a combination of these in the title bar. The bar may also appear green in some web browsers if the site is verified secure.
If you have doubts about the company itself, a Google search can reveal if it’s legitimate.
Protect yourself while buying
Don’t use public wifi when making purchases. These networks are easy to hack, making personal information, like credit card or bank account numbers, accessible to scammers.
Go directly to the sites you want to shop by keying in the web address. Hyperlinks in emails or clickable ads on social media can lead to fake sites that scammers have created to steal your information. Hovering over the link or ad may reveal the true address.
If you’re using a shared computer, use a private browser window for online shopping. Doing so ensures someone else can’t track your history and gain access to a stored credit card or purchase information.
If you’re on a work device, delay any research or purchases until you can do it from your personal computer. This way, a successful phishing attack won’t harm the entire network.
Keep your emotions in check
A fantastic online deal is cause for excitement—and if the offer is good for a short time, fear of missing out can lead you to act without considering the consequences. If you let your emotions overtake you, however, you’re playing into the hands of scammers. So, it’s important to think with your head and not your heart. Slow down and make sure you know the deal is legitimate. If you have any doubts at all about the seller or the offer, don’t take chances. Most importantly, keep a cool head and don’t get caught up in the hype.
After all, no holiday deal or discount is worth it if it makes you the victim of a scam.
Dave joined Barracuda Networks in 2017 as a Creative and Content Director for PhishLine. He oversees the development of the monthly Click Thinking bundle and has written about a wide range of information security topics. Prior to joining Barracuda PhishLine, Dave freelanced as a content provider for Nike, Northwestern Mutual Life, and The Onion.