As the song says "it starts to look a lot like Christmas" and in view of one of the most anticipated holidays of the year, we start shopping for gifts for our loved ones.
But since we are talking about 2020 where the COVID-19 pandemic shows no signs of receding, this Christmas will be different from every other year, as for security reasons many purchases will not be made in physical stores or malls, but online.
And as long as you search online for the perfect Christmas presents for your loved ones, cybercriminals will try to ruin your Christmas by cheating you and stealing your gifts and money.
Is there anything you can do to protect yourself? Of course yes. Here are some simple tips from experts at ESET, the international cybersecurity company.
Buy from reputable online stores
As with any holiday season, scammers set up fake online stores to lure unsuspecting victims and deceive them. To reduce the risk of fraudulent online stores, it is a good idea to make your purchases from reputable stores that have good reviews.
Remember: If an offer seems too good to be true, then it probably isn't
During this festive season, scammers take advantage of the fact that - as a rule - consumers can not resist a low price. However, you should be careful with luxury brands or technology products that are sold at an extremely low price. Low prices that seem too good to be true are probably a scam. Therefore, be sure to avoid any extreme discounts that seem suspicious - especially if they come from an unknown supplier.
Buy only from websites that use encryption (HTTPS)
When searching for the right gift online and finally locating the online store from which you want to buy it, first check if the online store website uses encryption. Look for the icon of a small padlock in the address bar of your browser. In this case the website address will start with "https: //".
This type of encryption ensures that sensitive data, such as your account credentials, will not be sent unprotected. This encryption adds an extra level of security whether you are shopping using your home Wi-Fi or a public wireless access point.
It is good to remember that all legitimate online stores use encryption, however, and fake websites are slowly starting to use this encryption.
Use high quality security software that includes Internet protection
While shopping online, one of the best security measures you can take is to use a reliable and complete security solution. These usually include features such as blocking known unreliable websites, protecting against most types of attacks, and even protecting payments for your online shopping and transactions.
Take time to think before you buy or give away your personal information
Before you buy something, take a deep breath and think about what you are going to buy, from where, and what kind of information you will give to the online store to complete your purchase. If you decide to buy anyway, look at the personal information requested by the store, fill in only the necessary information, as personal information could be used maliciously if it falls into the wrong hands, for example in case of data breach.
Do not shop online via hotspot: Use only secure internet connections
It may seem tempting to complete some of your purchases while waiting for your order in a store or while refueling your car. However, you should avoid doing this while you are connected to a public wireless access point. Public networks are usually targeted by cyber criminals for this and they will try to compromise your device or interfere with your communications.
A better idea would be to use your mobile data… and if you can not avoid a public connection, at least use a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt your traffic.
Check the payment receipt and contact your bank and branch if you notice anything strange
After you make a purchase, you may be able to check your account balance to make sure everything is OK and that the price you paid for the product matches the price you saw. If something seems strange, such as if the price is higher or there is some unusual activity, you should immediately contact the bank that issued your card for clarifications… and if something really suspicious appears, you can avoid losing money from criminals in cyberspace by canceling your card.
The basic premise of ESET advice is that you can shop online and look for good deals without exposing yourself to unnecessary risks. All you have to do is follow the best cybersecurity practices and watch out for any signs of suspicious activity.