Black Friday is the Friday after Thanksgiving and historically, it is one of the busiest shopping days of the year. This year, Black Friday falls on November 26th, and its cousin, Cyber Monday, is November 29th. While not officially holidays, many people have these days off, unless, of course, those working in retail.
Perhaps in part because of the pandemic, and perhaps in part to people not wanting to camp out overnight for the new gadget, many people are opting to do the lion's share of their Black Friday shopping online. And retailers know this. While some stores, like Walmart and Target, are offering their Black Friday specials throughout November to help alleviate some of the crowding, many retailers are simply turning to their favorite and hardest working employee, their websites, to give their best deals. Last year, Black Friday raked in over $14 billion in online sales, which is a 19% increase over 2019. (Adobe Analytics)
With all this online activity, it is a practical field day for bad actors who want to steal credit card information and passwords. While you may believe this only effects individuals, because people tend to use the same passwords over a variety of accounts, a leaked password on a retail site could equal a leaked password on your company’s network. That’s right, if an employee is foolish online at home, it could be bad news for your company network too. And despite knowing that scams are on the rise and that the holiday shoppers are prime targets, many people are not as vigilant as they should be.
Tips to Stay Safe Online When Shopping
Beware of Fake Websites
Copycat websites are a common way for cybercriminals to trick consumers. The webpage may contain misspelled links, pixelated images, and poorly made content. It may look like a legitimate website, but up-close inspection often shows that it is really just ET in a wig. Before you click on any links, hover the cursor over the link and make sure that it shows the real destination URL.
Use Secure Websites
Before shopping online anytime, much less during the holidays, make sure the site is safe and secure. Hover the cursor over the URL and confirm the authenticity of the web address. Look for the padlock symbol and check that the website has been encrypted and secured by looking for HTTPS://. No S means NOT SAFE
Be on the Lookout for Phishing Emails
Phishing emails are a popular way for cybercriminals to gain access to your information. Doesn’t everyone want to just click something for 20% off? But these links often take you to a scam site attempting to steal your credentials, payment information, or even funds through a faulty order. Rather than clicking links from emails, shop directly from the retailer’s website. If there is a coupon code, there will be a place for you to input it when checking out.
Use Credit Cards Over Debit Cards Online
Using credit cards instead of debit cards online adds an additional layer of protection. In case you make a fraudulent purchase by accident with your credit card, often your bank will reimburse you. Many credit card companies have zero liability policies that protect your account. However, if a criminal gets ahold of your debit card information, they can steal money from your account and that can be hard to get that money back.
Use Unique, Secure Passwords and Change Them Often
According to Security.org, approximately 68% of Americans use the same password across accounts. But this puts you and your accounts at risk. If a hacker gains access to one password, they may now have access to all your accounts.
Remember, have your password be like a Christmas sweater—tacky, a bit confusing, and something you won’t keep too long.
Monitor Your Bank Accounts Regularly
Make sure that you monitor your bank accounts regularly so that you are aware if there is any suspicious activity. Because so many people will be overspending over the holiday weekend, cybercriminals are banking on some charges going unnoticed. Many banks offer notifications that can be sent to your phone or watch so that you are alerted at each online purchase or withdrawal. While it may be annoying to have your phone blowing up each time you fill your online cart, it can keep you safe.
Beware of Social Media Scams
Social media scams are prevalent over the holidays. Hackers use social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram , to put up malicious post and entice consumers to like and share their posts and click on those nasty links.
Staying vigilant online doesn’t have to be daunting. By being aware of the risks and making sure you cover your tracks, you can stay safe and shop to your heart’s content.