Right now, you’re probably busy finding the best Cyber Monday deal for that 4K TV you’ve always wanted, but are you doing it safely?
Theoretically, Cyber Monday is the biggest online shopping day of the year. In reality, intense online shopping started on Black Friday and will continue right up until the last possible day when you can still have something shipping in time for Christmas.
You should be thinking about online shopping safety every single day of the year, but the risks are higher today because online thieves and tricksters know there are more people shopping online at this time of year.
Here are eight surefire tips to keep you, your identity and your money safe this Cyber Monday and beyond.
Verify the email deals
Your inbox is probably busting with amazing Cyber Monday and other holiday deals. Most are legit and probably pretty good. But there may also be a fair amount of spam and, worse, phishing in there.
Phish emails will look like Cyber Monday deals, but are in fact designed to get you to click on dangerous links that want to either drop malware on your computer or steal your personal information. Many will appear to link to legitimate shopping sites, but remember to double check the URL and, if possible, navigate to the website directly through your browser instead of using the link in the email.
You can also manage the influx of shopping emails by setting up a special email address with your favorite sites. This will vastly cut down the number of phishing emails you receive.
Make sure it’s a secure site
You’ll probably visit a dozen or more shopping sites this holiday season. Before you enter your details and credit card information, make sure you see the little lock icon and the word “Secure” next to the website URL. This will ensure that whatever information you share with the site will be handled in a secure manner.
Mix up your passwords
We know you want to shop quickly, but do not take the shortcut of using the same password for all your Cyber Monday and holiday shopping sites.
Credit Card Management
Do not shop with your debit card (i.e. the one tied directly to your bank account). Use a credit card to put a level of protection between you and the shopping site. Why? Just think about how many of these places have been hacked in recent years. If you use a debit card, your whole bank account is at risk. If you use one special credit card (maybe one that earns points) for all shopping, you can easily cancel it if your favorite Cyber Monday shopping site gets hacked. This will also make it easier to spot any weird activity on the card, since you’ll have a clear picture of all your Cyber Monday and holiday shopping activity in one place.
If you’re still shopping on your desktop or laptop computer, make sure it has the latest security software or operating system updates to protect the system from intruders. This is especially important as you’ll likely be visiting a lot of unknown sites with the “best deals” and opening Cyber Monday and holiday shopping emails that may not have your best interests at heart.
Avoid fake shopping and deal apps
Since most of you are probably shopping on your mobile device, you’ll want to be extra careful with downloading any fresh Cyber Monday deal apps. The worst are the copycat apps that appear to be legitimate deal apps but whose sole purpose is to infect your smartphones and steal your personal data.
Share as little as possible
Shopping sites that ask for more than your email address and credit card info are over-stepping their bounds. Always try to provide the bare minimum personal information about yourself and your gift recipient. While you may find value in setting up an account with the online retailer, you don’t have to and if that’s the only way to buy on that site, find your Cyber Monday deals elsewhere.
Searching for deals through Google, Bing and deal aggregation sites is a time-honored way of scoring the best price on your most-coveted gifts, but it’s also a hotbed of bad or at least sketchy links. The search engines will do a good job of steering you away from bad links, but aggregation sites are simply scrapping the Internet for products and pricing. Some of the bad guys know this and have set up sites that will look like shopping destinations, but may be identity thieves in disguise. One clear signal that these sites are not safe is that they will lack the security lock icon. Another is when they’re hosted outside the U.S. So, take a good hard look at those Cyber Monday shopping URLs.