Both the digital and the brick-and-mortar stores get flooded with people every year in November, thanks to Thanksgiving (excuse the pun) which marks the beginning of the Holiday season and is followed by two of our most-favorite events, Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Now every year millions and millions of people seek retail and online stores to shop the things they’ve waited a whole year for. And since they’ve been saving up big-time for this period, they stop at nothing to shop to their heart’s content.
The problem here, is that everyone knows about it, even the hackers and cyber criminals and while it’s the most productive time of the year for digital and physical stores, it’s also the business season for criminals, especially the cyber ones.
Now we don’t mean to scare you off but a recent Survey by PC Mag suggest at least 25% people said they’ve been a victim to some sort of cyber-crime. That means one in every four persons gets scammed and that’s alarming.
Fortunately, that’s where this post comes in. We can’t just let cyber-criminals roam free and let people fear them and cut down on all the shopping. We can’t just tell them they’ve waited a whole year for some extraordinary deal and now they just can’t have it. Instead, we have to do something about it. So we thought why not make people aware of the ways they get scammed and offer prevention tips so they can’t get scammed ever again and shop online all they want.
With that said, here are some useful tips to stay safe this season.
1. Shop From The Websites You Trust
There are websites like Amazon, eBay, AliExpress and Nike; and then there are sites you may have never heard of like buywatchesonline or Add1da5 or others whose name are fishy enough to at least give you a sign something isn’t right.
So whenever you land upon some website using Google, Bing, Baidu, Yandex or any other search engine, just make sure to browse through the website and check out a few of its pages to see if it’s trustworthy or not. If you get a bad feeling out of it, trust your heart and hit the back button.
Some of the tips to ensure the seller is authentic include:
- Running the provider’s name on online directory and scam tracker
- Look up its reviews on trusted sites like Yelp, Google and Bing
- Make sure there’s a way to contact the seller before you pay up, in fact
- Contact them before you make the purchase just to make sure they attend your call or answer your mail
- Check out the website’s terms of service. If their policy doesn’t make any sense, don’t buy anything from them
- Make sure the website doesn’t look dodgy or cheap as you navigate through its pages.
2. Look for the SSL Certificate
SSL stands for secure sockets layer and is a certification that the website is secured and encrypted. That means all your purchases will be safe and your credit card information will not be decrypted.
That’s good but how can you check if the website is SSL certified? Simple, just look at your address bar and try to find the padlock icon near the left. If the padlock is closed, as in locked, you’re good to shop here. But if the lock is open or not closed, then that’s a huge red flag.
The SSL secured websites will also have HTTPS instead of HTTP in the address bar. If you see the “S” missing, then don’t proceed with providing any information to the website and make your way out of there.
3. Avoid Email Links
We wouldn’t be surprised if you see an email in your inbox saying one of your uncle you didn’t even know about died in Nigeria and now you’re almost about to hit a fortune. Or, maybe you won a 95% discount on a $2000 Alienware laptop on the account of Black Friday and now all you have to do is provide your credit card information and you’ll have the laptop in a few days at your doorstep.
Phishing emails are pretty common. In fact, we would go out on a limb and say it might be the most effective way to make you give your password away because it’s private and personal and that works most of the time.
So if you’re wondering why you got a mail that sounds cheesy or at least suspicious, here are a few things you need to double-check before you act upon it any further:
- Check for the link and where it’s taking you. Just hover your mouse on it and check where it leads to, or just paste the link in the browser but don’t hit enter before you’re sure it’s safe and the landing page fulfills some of the criteria mentioned above.
- Make sure the domain in the mail is secured
- Make sure the purchases are SSL secured
- Make sure you’re giving out only basic and necessary information for the purchase
- Even if it says something like eBay or PayPal, make sure it’s not some site masquerading as them. One of the ways to make sure of that is to look at the sender’s email address. If it’s from eBay, it willhavee @eBay.com at its end.
4. Keep Your PC Up To Date
If you thought not sharing any information will make the hackers let you live in peace, then listen to this. Instead of you landing upon their website, some of them will go the extra distance and try to infect your system with a ransomware or some other kind of malware so they can get the information they want the hard way.
If you don’t want that, you’ll have to be prepared in advance. Always keep your PC up-to-date with the latest OS updates as well as with a good Antivirus. It would be even better if you can get a security suite from one of the top brands in the antivirus niche. One good news for Ivacy users is that we also offer online malware protection so you’re safe from accidentally downloading a malware if the file is being downloaded with Ivacy connected.
5. Ace The Art Of Creating Killer Passwords
In a recent survey, 27 percent people claimed they only change their passwords a few times each year while a staggering 35 percent said they have bothered doing that in their lifetime. This overconfidence or sheer laziness can cost you a lot if you haven’t changed your passwords in the recent past.
Even if you do change your passwords and use simple passwords like “google123” or “alan1987,” it’s not really hard for that criminal-minded classmate of yours to crack your credentials, hack your information and rob you blind if he chooses to.
So make sure all your passwords:
- are changed regularly
- are impossible to crack
- are different from each other
- are managed through a secure password manager
6. Never share too much information
If you’re buying a software or a digital service, all you will need to enter is your credit card information, your email address (not the password) and your name. You don’t have to enter your social security number or driver’s license or anything that makes it excessive information. If you land on some website that wants you to provide your family’s details or which college you graduated from, the only thing they should be provided with is a birdie.
Similarly, if you’re shopping a tangible product online, you might have to provide your address and other necessary shipping details so they can ship the product to your place but even in that case, you should be able to tell when the information provided is being excessive or serving no real purpose.
7. Be Skeptical About Free Wi-Fi
Phishing attacks are pretty common where public Wi-Fi connections thrive. If you’re trying to catch some amazing deal at the last moment using a public hotspot, make sure:
- You’re connected to a known network
- The connection you are trying to connect with is protected and has a lock sign next to it
- You are using a VPN on your device to encrypt everything
8. Keep A Track Of Your Credit Card And Online Purchases
Most of the purchases a person makes during this time of the year is a little before Thanksgiving and up until Cyber Week is over. So if you’re one of them too, be sure not to wait till the end of November for your statement. Instead, keep a close eye on the transactions you make and even sum them up manually for cross-referencing. Be sure to scrutinize each charge because you could face some fraudulent ones too.
9. Stay anonymous online
It’s been said a million times but we’re going to say it again. They can’t hunt what they can’t see. If you’re using a VPN and other useful add-ons to shop online, hackers will not be able to track you down. Not this Black Friday, not ever!
10. Use Mobile Apps
Mobile shopping is way more secure and convenient than having to go to the service provider’s store or site. Just use the mobile app provided by the retailer and you can sure of a secure transaction without someone else snooping in on the information. It’s even better than using a credit card and in a lot of stores, you’ll be able to find the option of paying through mobile apps.
11. Don’t Be Afraid To Voice Your Complaints
Non-delivery/non-payment are two of the most common complains people have about their vendors. It’s not always a scam, but a lot of time, it is. So if you ever get denied the service you were promised, make sure everyone knows about it so they can’t scam others in the future. Even if it was accidental, it will still help them improve the quality of their delivery. In case it’s an actual scam, you can report it to Federal Trade Commission, your state’s attorney general, and even the FBI if you feel like.
Note that this is going to work only if you’re in the same country or better yet, the same state as the seller. So try to make long-distance bargains this Black Friday and always prefer the deals and discounts that are closer to your home.
Well, that’s that. Let us know if you find these tips helpful. And oh, since you’re here, why not check out our Black Friday VPN deal. It will help you shop safely during this time of the year by keeping hackers and cybercriminals at bay.