Whether you shop on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, it’s important to know how to protect yourself. But while you have to worry about your wallet or your car when you’re out shopping, there are other things to guard against when you shop online.
Don’t get scammed this Cyber Monday, and protect yourself with these tips.
Avoid Questionable Websites and Deals
You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating: if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. During the holiday season, these “deals” are everywhere — email offers, coupons on Facebook, and even when you do a search on Google. You click on the link and instead of getting the deal, you’re asked to provide your personal information first. Why? Because it’s all part of a phishing scam to steal your information.
Here’s how to avoid it:
- If a URL seems a little off, don’t click on it. Instead of target.com, it might say targ3t.com. That’s not the correct web address and if you click on it, your information may be compromised.
- Go directly to a store URL and search for the deal instead of clicking the link from a questionable email, website, or social media post.
- If you’re on a website, and there are typos or the layout is bad, it’s likely a fake site. Big retailers put a lot of effort into their websites and won’t let them look that bad.
- When you click on that coupon “deal,” if it asks for personal information, sends you to a survey, or asks you to download an app, stop where you are and don’t click anything else.
Use Credit Cards or Mobile Payment Apps
It makes sense that you want to use your debit card. You avoid interest charges, and you only spend what you have. But if your information is compromised, either through a phishing scam or because the retailer is hacked, your debit card makes you more vulnerable. Once someone has direct access to your bank account, they can take every penny you have and may be able to access your personal information. Of course, most major banks will refund fraudulent purchases as fast as they can, but if it’s your checking account, you have no money until the refund is processed.
If you’re shopping in a store, use a mobile payment app like Apple Pay or Google Pay. This can be linked to any account you want, and the information is encrypted. This means that if the retailer is compromised, the hackers won’t get your credit card or debit card information. Use this on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or any day you shop.
Secure Your Devices
Before you shop online, make sure your phone, tablet, or computer are all secure. This includes updating the operating system and any apps as needed. Most of the updates, especially the annoying ones that seem to pop up all the time, are for security reasons. When you use the most current version you decrease your chance of being hacked.
Make sure you have a good quality (not a basic free version) anti-virus and anti-malware software on your computer or laptop. These should catch any scams before you go too far and enter personal information. Also, avoid downloading coupon deals and browser extensions. Some are legitimate deal finders, but others exist only to get your personal information.
The hackers and scammers who want to get something for nothing and steal your data are the criminals. But we don’t need to make their job any easier than it already is. Stay vigilant while you shop this holiday season, and when in doubt, avoid that “good deal” that seems too good to be true because, well, it probably is.