Black Friday has arrived and Cyber Monday is following shortly after. Deal-seekers forked over $7.9 billion last Cyber Monday, a $1.31 billion increase over the previous year. If this year’s growth forecast is accurate, consumers will spend $9.48 billion this year — a 20% year over year increase.
All that money flying around, however, has the tendency to draw online scammers like flies. Legitimate sellers drop legitimate ads, but think before you click. Not everything you see is real, and some bargains may seem too good to be true. Before you hand over your credit card number and personal information, keep the following advice in mind.
Beware of search results
Scammers know that certain search terms are likely to be popular. So, when you type in “Cyber Monday sales,” “Black Friday deals,” “best deals,” or the like, understand that some of the results may be distorted. Scammers use techniques like SEO poisoning and search engine infiltration to move fraudulent sites to the top of the list. Make sure to verify every site you use. Norton Safe Web can help you evaluate sites, and Google’s security checkup can ensure that your accounts remain safe and protected.
Don’t take the bait
Phishers will be in full force sending fraudulent emails. Examine every promotional email in your inbox carefully. Make sure it’s coming from a legitimate website and that the links all lead to a real and trusted seller. Keep in mind that malicious links can be disguised as real ones, so try to avoid clicking on any link in an email. Just open a new tab on your browser and type the URL in manually or do a Google search. It typically doesn’t take too long, and the peace of mind is well worth the effort.
Only download apps from trusted vendors
Seriously, just Google Play or the Apple store, don’t experiment. A lot of people go to a lot of length to scam, and that includes creating malicious apps, often carefully disguised as real ones.
Strong passwords, new browsers
Your password should be a unique alphanumeric combination with a mix of caps and lowercase letters, numbers, and maybe a symbol or two. Don’t be afraid to make it on the longer side and for the love of mercy, don’t use the word “password!” When surfing on the web, use up-to-date versions of your browser that have patched vulnerabilities found on older versions.
Use a VPN on public WiFi
Publicly accessible WiFi, like what you use at Starbucks, is typically unsecured. That leaves internet users vulnerable to “man in the middle” (MITM) attacks, in which information transmitted between users and websites can be intercepted. This includes personal information and login credentials. One popular option to combat this is the Norton Secure VPN. VPNs basically create a kind of secure “tunnel” between users and sites that hackers can’t penetrate.
Spot the https
Before you give out credit card information, make sure the URL of the website you’re on begins with https rather than just http. That ensures that your information is encoded and kept safe from hackers.
If you are the victim of online shopping fraud or your device becomes infected with malware from a faulty link, call the experts at SecureForensics. Our certified examiners have years of experience performing forensics on computers, mobile phones, and more. We can also detect malware on your device, remove it, and find what information was compromised. Call 1-800-288-1407 to learn more about how SecureForensics can help.