How to avoid cyber scams & keep your personal information safe
When it comes to online shopping during the holidays, especially on Cyber Monday, shoppers cannot help but be awed. It’s easy and convenient. There are bargains on top of bargains. And it’s hassle free—no more driving in circles to find a parking space at the mall; no more wrestling other shoppers for the must-have gift; no more standing in long lines and coordinating when to meet in the food court for an energy boost.
Cyber Monday has grown so large that it’s now an event. In recent years, it’s even topped Black Friday in sales. In fact, consumers visited more than 4,500 retail websites and spent nearly $3 billion in 2015 alone!
And that’s great news for the cyber Grinches who will be working overtime and coming up with ever-more creative ways to steal your holiday, and your identity.
Ready . . .
Whether it’s the excitement of Cyber Monday, the holidays, or the hunt for sweet deals, consumers are in a shopping frenzy more than at any other time during the year. As a result, shoppers are more likely to click on links and sites they would never normally visit.
Before clicking, though, there are a few things online buyers should know so that their holidays are happy. In the spirit of the season, we at Avante Insurance have made a list—and we encourage shoppers to check it twice.
• Prior to Cyber Monday, consumers are encouraged to check their online security. Browsers, security, and virus definitions should all be updated.
• When reviewing email, beware of scammers sending holiday e-cards and video greetings. These can appear to be from a legitimate retailer or from a friend whose email account has been hacked.
Once opened, the scam mail will download malware onto your device and then repeat the process through your address book.
Set . . .
Before making a purchase on Cyber Monday, many shoppers do research—lots of research—for any bargains. As always, if it’s too good to be true, there’s a good chance that it’s fraudulent.
Still, here are a few scams of which to be aware:
• Scammers are becoming more and more sophisticated in how they target online shoppers. Very often, they will create malicious sites, deals, coupons, and emails that closely mimic those of legitimate retailers.
The easiest solution for the consumer is to only shop on the retailer’s site.
• Don’t be so quick to click.
Scammers have found an opening in compromised social media accounts, such as Facebook. False coupons and too-good-to-be-true deals can appear on group walls or in a hacked friend’s newsfeed.
With one consumer click, the scammer can then access the newsfeeds of your friends and the scam spreads like a virus.
• Many packages and in-store displays often have QR codes, those square-shaped boxes filled with pixilated blobs of ink. Consumers can scan them with smartphones, and then be linked to legitimate websites and offers.
Scammers are now going so far as to cover legitimate QR codes with a compromised QR sticker. Once scanned, the consumer is brought to a not-so-legitimate site or offer.
At this point, shoppers are eager to actually make a purchase. Not so fast, though. Before finalizing the sale, the online buyer must beware.
• Never provide an online retailer with your birthday or social security number. The store at the mall wouldn’t do this, and neither should an online retailer.
• While shopping online, use a credit card—preferably one that will only be used for online purchases. Federal law is designed to protect consumers from fraud.
• Only input credit card information on a page that is “encrypted.” To tell if the page is safe, the page’s web address should begin with “https,” not “http.”
• If using a shared computer at the office or in a library, log out of the shopping site and clear the browser cookies and history. This will prevent the next person who sits at that terminal from accessing what you’ve just done.
Protect your purchases
In addition to purchasing gifts for others on Cyber Monday, many consumers will reward themselves with some big-ticket items. The holidays are a great time to reassess if your home and its contents are properly insured, or if new items need to be added to your home inventory.
Talk to us. Avante Insurance offers a full range of insurance solutions and options for your changing insurance needs—during the holidays and all year long.