The eagerly awaited holiday sales such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday are just around the corner. As consumers, we look forward to getting the best deals online, but we’re not the only ones. Hackers are also keenly anticipating these holidays but for different reasons. They use this period to come up with all sorts of shopping scams that can potentially put a dampener on the holiday spirit for unsuspecting shoppers.
This article provides you with ten tips to keep you and your family safe from online shopping scams this season. These tips will not only help you spot a good deal but also help you avoid falling prey to online scams, thereby ensuring that you keep your finances safe during this shopping season.
1. Be Cautious of Email Attachments from Retailers and Shippers
A common tactic employed by hackers involves the use of malware hidden in email attachments. During the holiday sales season, they often camouflage their malware in emails that claim to contain offers or shipping notifications. It is important to remember that legitimate retailers and shipping companies will not send offers, promo codes, or tracking numbers as email attachments. Instead, they will mention these details in the body of the email.
Therefore, be wary of any email attachments you receive from retailers or shippers. If something seems off, it probably is. Do not download or open suspicious attachments, as this could potentially lead to a malware attack.
→ Dig Deeper: McAfee Protects Against Suspicious Email Attachments
2. Thoroughly Review Links and Email Addresses
Scammers often employ a tactic known as “typosquatting,” where they create phony email addresses and URLs that look incredibly similar to the legitimate addresses of well-known companies and retailers. These are often sent via phishing emails, and instead of leading you to great deals, these links can direct you to scam websites that extract your login credentials, payment information, or even directly extract funds from your account when you attempt to place an order through them.
Therefore, it is imperative to double-check all email addresses and URLs before clicking on them. Look out for subtle discrepancies in the spelling or arrangement of characters, as these are often indicators of a scam. If a link or email address seems suspicious, do not click on it.
→ Dig Deeper: How Typosquatting Scams Work
3. Beware of Copycat Deals and Sites
In continuation with the previous point, scammers also set up websites that resemble those run by trusted retailers or brands. These websites often advertise special offers or attractive deals on popular holiday items. However, these are nothing more than a ruse to trick unsuspecting shoppers into divulging their personal and financial information.
These scam websites are often spread through social media, email, and other messaging platforms. It’s crucial to exercise skepticism when encountering such links. Instead of clicking on them, it’s always safer to visit the brand’s official website directly and look for the deal there.
→ Dig Deeper: 8 Ways to Know If Online Stores Are Safe and Legit
4. Ensure You Have Adequate Protection While Shopping
Using a robust and comprehensive security software suite while shopping can provide you with additional layers of protection against scams. For instance, web browser protection features can block malicious and suspicious links, reducing the risk of falling prey to malware or a financial scam.
Ensure your antivirus software is up to date and your firewall is enabled. At the same time, enable secure browsing options available in your web browser. These simple steps can go a long way in securing your online shopping experience.
5. Diversify and Secure Your Passwords
Using the same passwords across multiple platforms is akin to giving hackers a free pass. If they manage to hack into one account, they can potentially gain access to others that share the same password. To avoid this, consider using a password manager. These tools can generate complex and unique passwords for each of your accounts and store them securely, saving you the hassle of remembering them all.
By diversifying your passwords and securing them effectively, you can significantly reduce the risk of becoming a victim of a hack or a scam. The importance of this proactive approach cannot be overstated in today’s interconnected world, where our personal and financial information is often just a few clicks away from prying eyes and malicious intent.
→ Dig Deeper: Strong Password Ideas to Keep Your Information Safe
6. Utilize Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication (2FA) is an invaluable tool that adds an extra layer of protection to your accounts. When 2FA is enabled, gaining access to your accounts isn’t as simple as just entering your username and password. Instead, you also need to input a unique, one-time-use code that is typically sent to your phone or email. This code acts as a second password, making your account significantly more secure.
If any of your accounts offer 2FA, it’s crucial to take advantage of this feature. While it might initially seem cumbersome, the added security is well worth the slight inconvenience.
7. Use a VPN When Shopping on Public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi networks, such as those found in coffee shops and other public locations, can be dangerous due to their lack of security. If you shop online through a public Wi-Fi network, you’re essentially broadcasting your private information to anyone who cares to look. To prevent this, consider using a virtual private network (VPN).
VPNs encrypt your internet traffic, securing it against any prying eyes. This encryption protects your passwords, credit card numbers, and other sensitive information from being intercepted and misused. If you frequently shop online in public places, using a VPN is a must.
8. Opt for Credit Cards Over Debit Cards
In the U.S., the Fair Credit Billing Act protects against fraudulent charges on credit cards. Under this act, you can dispute any charges over $50 for goods and services that you never received or were billed incorrectly for. Moreover, many credit card companies offer policies that add to the protections provided by the Fair Credit Billing Act.
However, these protections don’t extend to debit cards. When you use a debit card, the money is immediately drawn from your bank account, making it more difficult to recover in case of fraud. So, for online shopping, it’s safer to use a credit card instead of a debit card.
9. Consider Getting a Virtual Credit Card
A virtual credit card can provide an extra layer of security for your online purchases. When you use one of these cards, it generates a temporary card number for each transaction, keeping your real card number safe. However, there are potential downsides to be aware of, such as difficulties with returns and refunds.
Before deciding to use a virtual credit card, understand its pros and cons. Research the policies of the issuing company so you can make an informed decision about whether or not it’s the right choice for you.
10. Monitor Your Credit Reports Closely
Given the number of accounts most of us manage and the rampant incidents of data breaches, it’s crucial to monitor your credit reports for any signs of fraud. An unexpected change in your credit score could indicate that someone has taken out a loan or credit card in your name. If you notice any discrepancies, report them immediately to the credit bureau and to the lender who reported the fraudulent information.
In the U.S., you’re entitled to a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus every year. Utilize this service and check your reports regularly. Remember, quickly identifying and reporting fraudulent activity is the key to mitigating its impact.
McAfee Pro Tip: Have you encountered a suspicious charge on your credit card and felt uncertain about the next steps? Get a credit monitoring service to monitor any unusual credit-related transactions that may be a potential sign of identity theft.
As we approach Cyber Monday, it’s important to stay vigilant to protect yourself and your family from online scams. By taking simple precautions like verifying email addresses, resorting to 2FA, using a VPN while shopping on public Wi-Fi, and monitoring your credit reports, you can significantly reduce your chances of falling for an online shopping scam. Additionally, consider employing cybersecurity solutions like McAfee+, which offer robust protection against various online threats. Remember, if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Happy and safe shopping!
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