With the Thanksgiving weekend just around the corner, the only thing you’re looking forward to more than a slice of pumpkin pie is an amazing sale. But before you can take advantage of the best Cyber Monday offers, you need to make sure you’re safe as you browse. Check in with these simple tips to protect yourself from a scam. They’re an easy way to avoid the dangers of online shopping.
- Don’t get caught in a phishing scam
In the lead up to Cyber Monday, your inbox will be full of notifications. Most retailers want their past customers to know about their upcoming deals, and this is a prime opportunity for scammers to piggyback on their email campaigns.
Most people know well enough that an email sent from a Nigerian prince is a scam. That doesn’t mean they’re safe from all phishing scams in their inbox. According to the latest data, the phishing scams still manage to convince people to share their financial information online almost half the time.
Successful scammers rarely ask posing as a prince from West Africa. Instead, they’ve streamlined the art of phishing by posing as reputable brands the average person already deals with on a regular basis.
While a Nigerian prince hoping to share millions with you via money order is obviously problematic, Google asking you to reaffirm your privacy settings on Google Docs isn’t. That’s why this particular scam in 2017 was so successful. People saw the Google brand and clicked accept without thinking to check the sender or request.
While they may look sophisticated, these scams don’t behave in a way that a big tech organization like Google or a financial company like GoDay act. Though an online lender may email you directly about your payday loan application, they would never ask you to share financial information like your bank account in a reply. Online lenders will redirect you to their website to access your secured profile first.
In addition to recognizing strange online behaviour, you should be wary of the links and email addresses in your inbox. If you use Chrome as your web browser, you can hover your mouse over any link and see the targeted URL without clicking it. If this process reveals an unusual destination that isn’t tied to the company, then you need to alert Chrome that it’s potentially a scam.
- Use an antivirus program
In your pursuit for the lowest prices, you might visit parts of the Internet you’ve never been before. While most reputable retailers will have security in place, other less upstanding companies will care about your online safety. They may show adds that contain malicious links that send you to another website liable to infect your computer with a virus.
An antivirus program is there to protect you from these websites. It runs in the background of your computer whenever it’s on, and it scans all files shared or downloaded from the Internet for viruses. Depending on the program you choose, it can also provide firewall and malware protection whenever you browse.
If you already have a program, this is time to make sure it isn’t set to expire in the lead up to Cyber Monday. If you don’t have one yet, you should check in with this guide to help you find the right program for your needs and budget. After all, few effective antivirus programs come for free.
- Look for online security
Even with an antivirus program on your computer, you should be careful with where you shop this Cyber Monday. Don’t sacrifice essential online security for rock-bottom prices. Malicious retailers use these low prices to try and trick desperate shoppers to complete their checkout. They can post such low prices because they never intend to deliver on these items; they just want your credit card number.
Never share your financial information with an online retailer until you can confirm they’ll protect your data. You’ll know that they do by the following features:
- The website starts with https:// — The ‘s’ in front of the ‘http’ is important. This is usually accompanied by a padlock or key on the left-hand side of the address bar. This suggests the retailer has SSL (Secure Socket Layer) encryption protecting all financial data shared on the site.
- It has a privacy statement — Legitimate businesses have to share their privacy statement with all their customers to show how they intend to use your information. If you don’t see this, move onto a website that does have one.
- It has a trusted payment system — Icons showing Interac, Paypal, or Worldpay use these third-party businesses to process your payment.
The bottom line: be critical
No sale is worth jeopardizing your financial identity, so take a moment to think about these tips before you buy anything online. They can protect you from sharing your credit card details with the wrong retailers this season — and beyond. There’s no cut-off for safe online shopping, so you can refer to this guide all year round.