Cyber Monday – 12 tips to help you shop safely online

‘Cyber Monday’ is rapidly becoming a boom industry for cybercriminals, with reports of frauds having leapt 31% in 2013, according to police statistics quoted by The Guardian.

With social media helping to whip up the frenzy in the days of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales – and retailers hyping bargains via Facebook, Twitter and email, it’s all too easy to click on the wrong link.

Tech Week predicts that Cyber Monday sales via social media will increase 21% over last year.

Technology might evolve, but cyber gangs rely on tried-and-tested tactics. With a bit of care and attention, it’s easy to sort the genuine bargains from the too-good-to-be-true fakes.

It’s also easy to put a few precautions in place – so that if you ARE caught out, you won’t lose out in the long run.

The best advice of all, though, is simply to stay alert – watch your bank statements, from now right until the end of January, and if you see anything odd, call your bank immediately.

Cyber Monday: How to shop safely

  • Make sure your bank has an up-to-date telephone number for you: this will allow them to get in touch rapidly if they notice suspicious transactions. This can help both to speed through genuine transactions – and to stop criminals in their tracks if your card number is being misused.
  • Be ultra-wary of ‘bargains’ and social-media offers around iPhones, Samsung phones, games consoles and iPads on Cyber Monday. The UK organisation Get Safe Online says that these are the items most commonly involved in fraudulent sales or auctions, along with fashion items such as Ugg boots.
  • Buy items using credit cards, not debit cards –  credit cards usually offer protection against fraud, whereas many debit cards do not.
  • Where possible, ensure that your cards are enrolled in schemes such as Verified by Visa or Mastercard SecureCode, which offer an additional layer of protection when buying online.
  • Check delivery and returns policies where you can – one of the most common frauds during the holiday season is to deliver fake or faulty goods, and then refuse to refund the money.
  • Shop on PC with anti-malware protection if you can – but if you are using mobile, use security software. Last year saw mobile sales leap to around 20% of holiday-season shopping, according to a We Live Security report – and rise 187% year-on-year according to GigaOM. Good Mobile AV software will alert you if you’re being directed to a bogus site.
  • If you are using a PC to buy, spring clean before you shop – update your browser, plug-ins, OS, and flush with good AV software.
  • The browser bar is your friend: check the spelling of any site you’re shopping from, and check to see that there’s a ‘lock’ symbol and HTTPS to show you’re secure when you’re about to buy. If it’s not there, leave.
  • Auction sites are rife with fraud on Cyber Monday- and be extra wary around expensive items. Always choose a payment method approved by the site and covered by their insurance – and never pay direct to the seller.
  • Don’t click on a link your friend sends you, or you see shared on Facebook – no matter how good the bargain is. That’s just asking to be sent to a fake site. Instead, go in via the front page, and find the item from there – if it is a sale item the retailer is pushing, it will be easy to find anyway.
  • Don’t overshare. Many frauds rely on you handing over information, thinking you’re making a purchase – then the fraudster uses your information to drain funds from your account. If you’re asked for ‘extra’ info, such ID or phone number, be wary.
  • If a bargain appears on a store you’ve never heard of, step back and use a search engine to find reviews of the store, and see how long it’s been around for. If information seems to be lacking, don’t buy.

Follow these tips, and you can be sure that you’ll be bringing home bargains this holiday season – rather than handing out valuable information (or money) to cybercriminals.

Author Rob Waugh, ESET

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