About 75% of Americans plan to do at least half of their holiday shopping online this year, shows a new TransUnion 2019 Holiday Retail Fraud Survey. Yes, online shopping skips the crowds at the mall, but you need to navigate an increasingly dangerous cybersecurity minefield.
It’s Holiday Season for the bad guys too! They go into scam-overdrive mode. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the busiest on-line shopping days and scammers are planning to get rich with your money. So, here are the Top 10 Fraud Alert Tips
- Never click on links in emails. If you want to shop at a site, enter that site address in your browser. There are thousands of fake sites that look almost identical to the real thing. Don’t fall for evil-twin shopping sites.
- Don’t open attachments with special offers. It’s a classic scam. The offer should be in the email and you should be able to see it right away.
- Watch for malicious ads and popups. Do not click on ads that sound too good to be true and ignore popups that might propose the “best deal ever”.
- Beware of e-skimmers. This is a new one. Do you know that bad guys sometimes skim your credit card at gas stations or ATMs? Well, there is a new flavor of that, the shopping website you order from might be infected with a “e-skimmer” and they steal your card data when you check out. You can prevent that by using PayPal or Amazon.
- Use a credit card to buy stuff online if possible. NEVER use a debit card to make online purchases.
- Do not shop over a public Wi-Fi. You simply do not know if it’s secure and who is listening. Only shop using a secure, trusted network. If you have no other way to shop, use a VPN which encrypts your traffic.
- Be very careful when you see a free offer during the holidays. There is an explosion of all kinds of survey fraud and gift card scams.
- Do not re-use any of your passwords. Instead, use a password manager to create hard-to-break passwords. Re-using any password is literally an invitation to get hacked.
- Keep a close eye on your credit card and bank accounts. During this season, unexpected and strange charges might appear which could very well be the first sign your card or even your whole identity has been stolen. If you think you might have been scammed, stay calm and call your credit card company, nix that card and get a new one.
- Be especially suspicious of gift card scams. They can be a perfect holiday gift, but gift card scams are skyrocketing. Only buy gift cards from trusted sources.