Four Tips for Safer Online Shopping

Computer and mobile device users are always at risk of being hacked, scammed, and phished, but when the holidays arrive, scammers have even more opportunity to target online shoppers to trick people into giving up their personal information, including bank account or credit card data.

You probably have heard the term “phishing” used on the radio, news or in conversations with friends or colleagues. Your first thought might have gone to that five-pound bass that has alluded you for so long. But then you realize they are talking about online security.

What exactly is “phishing”?

Phishing is the fraudulent practice of sending emails purporting to be from reputable companies in order to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers.

How can this impact you?

According to Norton™, 972 million consumers were victims of hacker attacks in 2017. This type of crime is increasingly common and during the holiday season, when individuals are more likely to surf and shop the web for gifts, it gives thieves the perfect opportunity to try and “lure” you into giving up valuable information.

Four tips to help you protect yourself:

 1) When in doubt, check it out.

Never click on a link in an email or text unless you’re positive it’s safe. Instead, go to the site yourself (by typing the URL into your browser or using a bookmark you’ve saved previously) and log into your account by hand.

Scammers usually try to pretend to be a site, store or service that you are familiar with. They can make an email or website look almost identical to the ones you are used to seeing. Always inspect the logos, email addresses, headers, text, and content of messages before clicking on anything. Upon close inspection, simple abnormalities such as a misspelling or extra line in a logo can tip you off.   

2) Carefully inspect and check website domain names

Hover over the link — if it doesn’t match the domain name you have seen when using the legitimate website, do not click!  For example, if you receive a special offer from greatwalmartoffers.biz instead of Walmart.com there probably is something “phishy” about it and it’s possibly a scam.

3) Make sure merchant websites are secure

A valid retailer will use a secure protocol – HTTPS – because it includes encryption and authentication that keeps the information shared between your computer and the website private, improving security against certain types of attacks. If you have any doubts about the company itself, a Google search can reveal if it’s legitimate (and it’s ratings).

To tell whether a website is secured with HTTPS, all major web browsers indicate this with an icon to the left of the site’s URL.  Google Chrome also notes “Not secure” on insecure sites.

If you are purchasing or sharing personal information, look for a locked padlock icon that shows they are using the most current security mechanisms, indicating that your shopping sessions are encrypted and secure.

Ensuring that a site has HTTPS might not be as important if you are researching or reading an informational blog that doesn’t request any of your information, but it is extremely important if you’re planning to buy something and provide your payment card information or log in with your username and password. 

4) Check out the deals!

Your parents might have told you that you don’t get anything for free – well, to some extent that is true, so always be extra careful when ads profess to give you a deal that seems extreme or too good to be true! So many stores are giving double coupon rates, Black Friday / Cyber Monday time-sensitive deals and other “sensational giveaways” that we come to expect ridiculous savings. If something looks that good and you are interested, independently research the seller’s website and check on the legitimacy of the offer. Emails, pop-up windows, social media ads or even texts that claim crazy discounts, freebies or promotions can easily lead you to fake e-commerce sites specifically designed to get your information.

Finally, always take your time and be patient when contemplating clicking on a “deal” or “promotion”. Scammers count on you making quick decisions and hurrying through the purchasing process. They often do this by wording the “phishing” so you feel pressured to react quickly. Examples are things like: only 3 items left, 2 hours left, your package has been delayed please respond, or urgent – your credit card information needs updating for your purchase to go through.

Bottom line:  always take time to check out promos or time-sensitive information requests at the service providers website/source – in the long run it may save you a great deal of trouble, time and money.  

And of course – keep your devices’ security/protection software updated.

Wishing you a safe, secure and Happy Holidays from Secur-Tek Inc!

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