Ah yes, as Thanksgiving approaches, so does the thought of a delicious meal shared with friends and family. Is there anything more mouth watering than a Thanksgiving feast? Yes. Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals!
Did someone say SALE?
Every year, the excitement builds for those post turkey day deals online. I’m talking about the biggest shopping days of the year – Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Last year, over 58 million shoppers took to the world wide web to hunt down deals across various online retailers. This statistic is also just the online shoppers! Over 116 million shoppers stood in line for hours in brick and mortar stores to shop the bargains as well.
Now, if you are like me and would rather avoid the crazy lines in the cold and huge crowds, then online shopping is the way to go.
But, with all the criminal activity on the web aimed at stealing personal and credit card information, one has to wonder how to protect such data. Cyber security threats are on the rise, and criminals sure won’t miss a chance to attack on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
If you would like to find out how to protect your information online when shopping, check out the tips on what to look for and how to avoid falling victim to cyber criminals.
What to Look For Online
To begin, several red flags exist that one should look for before making a purchase on a site or on the internet in general. Caution is especially important around the holidays due to the fact that millions of people are dishing out their credit card information.
Let’s begin in your email inbox. Before you have even has a chance to log on to (for example) Target’s website for those holiday deals you check your inbox.
Sometimes, this is where scammers like to start. They may send out fraudulent items to your email. These items could include malicious links that take you to a bad site, fake coupons and even gift cards.
The red flag with these types of items are when there is a link attacked. One may also see the “click now!” or “you’ve won!”. Something else to look for when deciphering real offers from fake ones is the email address they are sent from.
Usually scammers don’t count on a user checking their actual address, it’s always a dead giveaway. Any email from a company that has more text than just the company’s name is usually fraudulent.
Photo via: Hackread.com
Further, if you ever have a question about an offer or anything else sent by a company, go to their direct site and contact the helpline or customer service.
Websites and Valid Certificates
Now, you’ve managed to avoid all the scammers in your inbox, but what about on the web? At this day in age, it’s quite a task to decipher your way through the web in hopes of landing on a safe site.
Continuing, this year when the Black Friday bargains are calling, take a moment to stop and check that the site you are visiting has a valid certificate.
What is a valid cite certificate you may ask? “A website security certificate is a validation and encryption tool, part of the HTTPS protocol, which secures and encrypts data going back and forth between the server and the client browser. It is issued by a trusted certification authority (CA) who verifies the identity of the owner of a website.”
Basically, this means that there is verification of the website being trusted and authentic. In order to identify a valid certificate, look for the gray padlock at the beginning of a web address.
The user is also able to click on the padlock to view the site information and the certificate. If the padlock is closed, the website is valid. If not, an unsecured website warning will be issued in most browsers (like Google Chrome).
Finally, not the last nor the least, is the threat of credit card skimmers on your cart at checkout. A credit card skimmer by definition is a device or portion of embedded code designed to steal credit card information at an ATM or online checkout.
This type of threat can fly under the radar for an extended period of time without a company let alone a customer knowing.
If an embedded digital card skimmer is running on for example, Best Buy’s website, it has the ability to steal customer credit card information at checkout without the customer knowing. Later on, the customer may notice fraudulent purchases on the card and then have to try and figure out what happened.
In order to avoid such a scenario, it is fairly difficult. This goes back to making sure that the sites you are shopping have a valid certificate and are running up to date security software.
Further, if you are shopping on an app through your phone, make sure that the app is up to date. This helps to insure that all security issues are either up to date or patched.
Thank you for your order!
All in all, this article may come off as slightly scary with the upcoming Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. But, the main takeaway here is not to be scared of the internet, but to be prepared.
Preparation, education and caution are three great and simple ways to protect your information online.
Happy shopping, and go get those deals (safely and securely)!
By Taylor Ritchey