With the holiday shopping season just around the corner, it’s important to brush up on your safe shopping tips! Every year, consumers around the world splurge for the holidays, buying up thoughtful gifts for the special people in their lives (or at least a gift card or two). However, it’s also a time for increased cyber crime, with internet scams targeting consumers and businesses alike.
What does the holiday shopping season have to do with cyber crime? How can you practice good internet safety while shopping?
Here are a few tips for staying safe online this holiday season to help you out—plus a brief explanation of holiday internet scams so you can be better prepared:
Why There’s an Increase in Cyber Crime During the Holidays
In recent years, online shopping has become increasingly common for American shoppers. For example, according to data cited by G2, “U.S. shoppers spent $126 billion on online shopping over the 2018 holiday season.” This represents an enormous opportunity for online scammers and cyber criminals.
With millions of people searching the internet for the perfect gift for their loved ones, cyber criminals can find success with even poorly-targeted phishing schemes, fake websites, and other online scams. In other words, it’s a time where even a little effort can provide a payoff.
What Types of Cyber Crimes Happen During the Holidays?
Knowing the specific types of threats you face can help you practice better online safety when you’re shopping. So, what are some of the more common cyber crimes that happen during the holiday shopping season?
A few examples of common holiday cyber crime strategies include:
- Fake Online Storefronts. With consumers throughout the U.S. shopping for hard-to-find gifts online, many cyber criminals try to trick unsuspecting shoppers with fake digital storefronts. These storefronts may try to imitate real ones while using a slightly modified URL (e.g. Amazan.com instead of Amazon.com) or they may be entirely unique. These fake storefronts may be set up to capture your login information for the real storefront (allowing the scammer to shop on your account), or they may have links that trigger malware downloads.
- Phishing Messages. Phishing is a major type of internet scam year-round—and the holidays are no exception. Many holiday season-themed phishing attacks try to pose as offers from legitimate retailers, urging their victims to click on a link in the message to receive a free gift or a discount on an order—only to end up downloading malware or visit a fake storefront that captures their login information. Here, using a tool like a shortened URL preview solution can help with staying safe online by letting you spot bogus offer links.
- Attacks Using Public Wifi. Many people can shop on the go from their smartphones these days. Also, numerous stores (such as Target) offer free public wifi access to shoppers to increase convenience (and pair with retailer-specific apps). Savvy attackers often attempt to intercept wifi network traffic—conducting “man-in-the-middle” attacks so they can steal data such as payment information and user account logins.
These are just a few of the major attack types that target consumers during the holidays. So, what can you do to practice good internet safety while shopping this holiday season?
Staying Safe Online when Holiday Shopping
Online safety during the holiday season is important. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be difficult. Simply following a few tips for staying safe online can do a lot to minimize your risk of falling victim to a holiday shopping scam. Here are a few brief tips to help you stay safe online when shopping for the holiday season:
- Treat Unsolicited Offers with Healthy Skepticism. If you get an email or see an ad on Facebook (or other social media platforms) that is offering a deal that’s too good to be true, be sure to treat that offer with some skepticism. Be especially cautious of unsolicited emails and messages from unfamiliar retailers. When dealing with emails, be sure to check the sender’s email address to verify that it comes from a trusted source. Instead of clicking on links in emails, simply visit the vendor’s site directly through your browser to avoid malicious links. Alternatively, using a URL checker to preview link destinations before clicking on them can help you spot a malicious site or download link.
- Carefully Inspect Site Web Addresses. When visiting a familiar online storefront, take special care to double-check the web address in your browser to make sure that you’re on the right website. It can help to bookmark your favorite online storefronts to ensure that you don’t accidentally click on a fake website when searching online.
- Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) Service. VPN services help users anonymize their internet activity by connecting to the VPN provider’s servers first and then redirecting that traffic to other destinations. On top of providing online anonymity, these services usually encrypt the traffic they handle—making it even harder for malicious actors to steal sensitive information.
- Change Your Passwords if You Suspect Your Accounts of Being Compromised. If you believe that your online shopping accounts may have been compromised, be sure to change your account passwords as soon as possible. This can help prevent thieves from being able to hijack your account for their personal gain. In fact, changing your passwords every so often is a good idea in general. Additionally, you should avoid using the same passwords and usernames for every online shopping account. This way, if one account is compromised, the others will still be safe.
- Turn on Account Alerts and Monitor Your Credit. If you have a banking app on your phone, turn on alerts for major purchases (if your bank supports this feature). This way, you can be notified of any major withdrawals or purchases that might occur. It can also help to check your credit report to monitor for changes in your credit score or to identify any fraudulent accounts that may have been opened in your name.
- Apply Two Factor Authentication to Your Accounts. Two factor authentication increases account security by enforcing the use of multiple types of identity verification rather than just a password. For example, you might set up your accounts to send an SMS text message to your phone when trying to log into a website—preventing someone who only has your password from being able to log in.
- Use Antivirus/Antimalware Tools to Check Emails. An antivirus/antimalware tool with a built-in email checking solution can help you spot malicious files and download links hidden in phishing emails. Using these tools helps reduce your risk and increase your online safety.
CyberEasy: The Gift That Keeps on Giving
Part of staying safe online is being vigilant against abnormal activity—after all, that’s why checking your credit report during the holidays is so important. However, manually investigating your accounts and activity can be difficult and time-consuming.
This is where CyberEasy from Knogin can help. CyberEasy for Individuals is a simple-to-use cyber security tool that learns your online behaviors and checks for any abnormalities that might indicate that your devices and/or accounts have been compromised. If unusual behavior is detected, you’ll get an alert that lets you take control of your online safety.
Curious about CyberEasy? Try it out for free to see how it works!