Cyber Monday is always a frenzied day of online shopping and bargain hunting. And according to Adobe Digital Insights (ADI), this Monday is set to be the largest online shopping day in history. The madness of Monday is projected to best last year’s record of $3 billion sales. But be aware that there will be tricksters and fraudsters sneaking around online corners, trying to scam you out of your hard-earned cash.
Last year, there were 1,100 underhanded websites that manipulated and baited customers using five brand names referencing Black Friday and Cyber Monday, according cyber-security company RiskIQ. One in ten mobile apps associated with Black Friday is unsafe. Damn, these hackers, tricksters and thieves are relentless. So, if you want to avoid being swindled, you should check out these five tips for safe shopping.
1. Don’t shop on public Wi-Fi
If you’re on the go, do not do your Cyber Monday shopping (or any other future shopping) using public Wi-Fi. Just don’t, you’ll put your cyber security at risk and hackers will be better able to access your info. But if you really want to shop while on the go, find a hot spot or pick up a better data plan for your mobile device. Verizon and some other phone providers give you the option to purchase a stand-alone mobile hot spot. But if you want to ignore my advice and shop on public Wi-Fi anyway then you can use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) like Private internet Access or Freedome, which obscures and protects web traffic and makes for more secure shopping.
2. Create unique usernames and passwords
Dude, stop using the same password for all your accounts! Seriously, if you’re using the same password for everything then you’re just inviting a security breach, which can really cost you ($$$). Some may suggest to use a random string of words, letters or numbers. It’s definitely better to make your password unique and not something your friend can guess because who knows how much of a friend that person really is. And you may have over a dozen accounts, how in the world will you keep track of all these different passwords? That’s why I’m sure some people are just lazy and go with one password for everything. But don’t be lazy! Being careful can save you a fortune (literally). But keeping track of your passwords can be hard, so, it’d be smart if you use a password manager like LastPass (totally free) or 1Password (free for first 30 days). Or if you can just write down your passwords the old-fashioned way and put it in a secure place then that would be just great. But make sure you don’t lose that piece of paper and also be careful that it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. The consequences can be disastrous.
3. Monitor your bank account
Obviously, a lot of people are making a lot of purchases around this time of year. So, you should seriously be on the lookout for anyone trying to steal from your account (since you’re purchasing so much, you might overlook a thief). “A lot of theft that occurs goes unnoticed, and once it is noticed often the goods and services have been delivered,” said Marc Boroditsky, vice president at security app Authy. According to Boroditsky, you’re better off turning on your notifications, so that you’ll receive an alert at every purchase made. Vendor sites like Amazon gives the option of receiving text message notifications on every purchase as well as updates on shipping status. These notifications may seem annoying, but you’ll be seriously thanking this service when and if you ever stop someone from stealing money from your bank account.
4. Use two-step authentication
Almost every e-mail client out there gives you the option to pick two-step authentication. You’ll have to sign in with your username and password as you normally do, but you’ll also need a verification code. You can access this code through a separate device like your phone. You should check if retailers have this option when you go shopping online for plenty of great sales on Cyber Monday. Amazon and Etsy do offer two factor authentication, so if you use these sites then you’re in luck. But still, check out TwoFactorAuth.org to find out if the store you’re purchasing from uses two-step authentication as well. This will make sure that no one but you is using your card to shop on Cyber Monday.
5. Be aware of links
Some links can very misleading and will try to rip you off by mimicking a shopping web site that you’re familiar with. According to RiskIQ, thousands of fraudulent apps and deceptive landing pages put many shoppers at risk at being hacked and ripped off. If the shopping web site is designed poorly, you should get off immediately because there’s a good chance that it’s a scam site! Make sure you’re actually on the store’s web site, check the URL. Make sure the URL begins with HTTPS, and look for a lock symbol next to the web address (this will tell you if the page is encrypted). Make sure those promotional e-mails that advertise deals actually link back with the company they claim to be (for example: firstname.lastname@example.org rather than email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org).
Make sure to only download apps from the official Google or Apple app stores, and research those apps well before you decide to download (and remember to double check). According to RiskIQ, 85 applications had infected users with malware, so be sure to download your apps from a source that is verified and one that you can trust. But be aware of the tricksters, as last year, nearly one million blacklisted apps disguised themselves as one of the top five e-commerce brands in their app titles or descriptions as a means of luring and tricking their victims. Nearly 30% of shopping is expected to be on mobile devices. So, if you’re planning on shopping with your phone, be cautious!
Be safe and shop well!
Note: This post has been updated and republished from last year.