A VPN, or virtual private network, is an essential tool for online privacy and security. It helps keep you …
Black Friday and Cyber Monday create a frenzy of shopping, and people are markedly less careful with how they spend their money in the push to get the best deals. Online scammers take advantage of unwary shoppers during this popular shopping weekend with phishing scams, malware, and Clickbait. Protect yourself and your accounts by being wary of online offers, always secure your browser and by verifying your location on the internet so you don’t get scammed (look for the URLs).
Be Vigilant when Buying from your Phone
Many people believe that smartphones are less vulnerable to phishing scams and fraud than computers are. After all, when was the last time your iPhone had a virus? But the simplicity of mobile ads and websites actually makes it easier for criminals to create fake mobile sales and transactions.
It’s harder for retailers to conduct sales via phones the same way they do online, because of screen size and the inconvenience of forcing people to type in lots of information through their touchscreen keyboards. That means many retailers have adapted mobile checkouts to require less information and an easier overall transaction. Unfortunately, this format is also simpler for crooks to copy. When buying from your phone, only use a website that you know, and access it from a search engine, not from an ad.
You may even receive text messages telling you your bank account has been hacked and that you need to click a link to keep it safe. If you want to check that your account is safe, do it immediately, but not by clicking the link in the text. Log into your bank account the way you usually do or call your bank to make sure. These fake text messages are trying to collect your bank account information to steal your money.
Look for Fake URLs
Another popular online shopping scam involves creating websites that look almost exactly like those of popular retailers. URLs like “Amazan.com” will set up a page that looks frightfully like Amazon, then will put out ads linking great (fake) deals to their page. Before you know it, you’ve given your email, phone number, credit card information, and address to an unknown scammer. And that great deal you thought you were getting? It won’t ever come in the mail.
Always verify the URL before you buy. Verify it on every page of the transaction. Verify it before you log in to websites like Facebook and Gmail. If you log into a fake Facebook site, now that site has your Facebook login information and can use it to hack your account, steal your identity, and send you phishing scams via email.
Carefully Inspect Contests and Gift Offers
You’ve seen those ads in the sidebars of your favorite websites (and in the sidebars of websites you’ve never visited before) offering a fantastic coupon or a free item (usually something like a phone that you could never actually get for free!) if you just take a simple survey or sign up for a newsletter. These aren’t real. Yes, sometimes legitimate websites offer the chance to get a few bucks off something if you give customer feedback, but ads on the side of your Facebook page aren’t the way they do it.
When you come across a scam like this, they’re trying to collect your information. Once they have your email, they can send you all kinds of malware. Sometimes the site itself carries malware that will download onto your computer as soon as you click anything. The best way to protect yourself against this kind of fraud is to be very skeptical of any “great offers” you see online, especially around Black Friday and Cyber Monday. You also want to make sure your computer is protected. Computer protection like Hotspot Shield will tell you before you’re about to visit a malicious site and will block the site automatically to protect your computer.
Don’t Follow Email Links
Sometimes it’s better not to open unknown emails at all, but it can be hard to tell what’s legitimate and what’s not. Around the holidays, scammers often send fake UPS or FedEx emails, telling you that you have a gift waiting and you can claim it if you just follow a link. Others will contain fake bank messages telling you that your account has been hacked and that you need to click somewhere and give personal information to prove it is your account and then protect it.
Another favorite is fake charities. Typically people are in a more giving mood around the holidays, and scammers like to pretend to be charities like UNICEF or the Red Cross asking for donations to help make the holidays brighter for people in need. If you want to donate money, don’t do it via an email like this. Instead, google the charity you want to donate to, use the search engine results to find the charity’s legitimate website, and follow the channels they set forth for donations.
Get your Black Friday deals from trusted sources. Legitimate websites won’t make you jump through hoops or visit third party websites to get their deals. Be vigilant and careful, and never surf the web without adequate virus protection.
Want to learn more how to shop securely this holiday season? We have the 5 online shopping tips that will make your shopping experience much safer and enjoyable.