How to keep Cyber Monday from becoming Scammer Monday
If you’re planning on shopping the cyber monday deals today, you’re not alone. Over 75% of Americans will do at least half their shopping online this year.
But while shopping online may save you time and frustration at the checkout, it can cost you months, or even years, of recovery from a scammer. Even worse, if you own a business and your business information is compromised you could join the 60% of businesses that were hacked last year and were out of business within 6 months!
Below is a One-Stop guide to protecting your hard earned money, credit and reputation this holiday season.
#1 – Don’t click links in emails
Emails are a particularly common way for fraudsters to gain access to your credit card information or identity. Hackers send what’s called a phishing email, in which they copy a store’s sale or discount email and include a link to a false portal asking for your info.
Email is the number-one way cybercrime of all forms happens. If a bad guy can get you to click on a link in an email, he can do all manner of bad things to your online life.
If you do get a tempting promotion, go directly to the retailer’s website by typing its name in your browser.
#2 – Don’t open attachments from retailers
In the same way that you should avoid clicking on email links, you should never open up attachments from retailers. Retailers won’t hide deals in attachments – that’s where attackers hide malware. Cyber criminals aren’t only impersonating retailers, either. You could get a fake email that seems to be from a major shipping company like UPS, FedEx or DHL.
Instead of clicking on a tracking number listed in an email or opening up an attachment, go directly to ups.com or fedex.com to check the tracking number.
#3 – Avoid pop-ups and ads on Social Media
Malware and viruses aren’t just spread via email. They can follow you around the Internet in the form of pop-ups and advertisements — these are actually referred to as “malvertising” or malicious advertising.
These kinds of ads can send you to sites that ask for your information, but more commonly they infect your device with a wide variety of harmful programming such as adware, spyware and ransomware. This form of malware can lock up your computer or device and force you to pay to get access back.
Don’t fall for a “too-good-to-pass-up” deal.
If a deal is legitimate, it will be on the company’s site. Pop-ups are an easy way for cybercriminals to lure you in.
#4 – Beware of E-skimmers
Card skimming has been happening for years. It’s a scam that typically happens at gas stations or ATMs, where a criminal installs a device that gathers credit card numbers and information when you swipe your card. That practice has now gone digital. Cyber thieves can install malicious code on a retailer’s website to gather credit card data when you check out.
To protect yourself from this practice, you can pay using a third party such as PayPal, or Amazon-Pay, if the retailer allows it, so the store never actually has your credit card number. Or you can create a virtual credit card that provides temporary numbers so your information stays secure.
Contact your bank directly to see if they offer virtual credit card numbers for your online purchases.
Most banks provide virtual credit cards to their clients free of charge.
#5 – Use a credit card instead of debit cards
UniVirtual Solutions cyber experts recommend using credit cards instead of debit cards for all holiday purchases. That’s because the Fair Credit Billing Act makes it so consumers are only liable for up to $50 in fraudulent charges. And major credit card companies, including American Express, Discover, Mastercard and Visa offer “zero liability” policies, so you don’t have to pay for any fraud.
Save your debit card for taking out cash. Not just during the holidays, but year-round.
And make sure to avoid suspicious ATMs. If the ATM looks broken, or anything on the front of the machine appears dislodged, or jerry-rigged, it could mean that someone has installed a card-skimming machine.
#6 – Be suspicious of free offers
During the holidays there’s an “explosion” of survey and gift card scams. These are generally emails that supposedly offer you payments or gift cards in exchange for taking surveys.
Instead, when the user clicks through, they end up on websites that may look legitimate and ask you for your credit card information or Amazon account credentials “so they can pay you.” Yet when you type your credentials in this site, you’re giving them directly to the attacker; who now has access and control over your account.
These types of emails may also contain a common technique called “hidden text.”
Normally invisible to you, this is text scammers put in to confuse and bypass the mail protections that Microsoft, Google, and others use to try to protect you.
#7 – Use a secure network to shop
Almost half of Americans, 45%, have used public Wi-Fi to access sensitive information, according to a recent survey by payment compliance provider PCI Pal in 2019.
But with all the bad bots and cyber criminals lurking during the holiday season, it can be a particularly dangerous time of year.
Without proper network precautions, the hacker sitting a few seats down at your local Starbucks could sneak into your device and watch you input your credit card information.
When shopping online, make sure you’re using a private Wi-Fi connection or your smartphone’s cellular network to browse the internet. Public Wi-Fi networks are notoriously insecure and could open you up to malware or even worse… hacking.
If you absolutely need to use public Wi-Fi, use a Virtual Private Network, or VPN, that will encrypt your browsing history and activity.
All major wireless/mobile companies offer a VPN for their clients. For example, Verizon wireless now offers “Safe Wi-Fi”, a VPN that protects up to 10 devices on your plan, for only $3.99/month.