Shopping online during the holiday season has become a popular option over the past few years. In 2021, consumers spent approximately $10.7 billion during Cyber Monday alone.
Online shopping can take a lot of the stress out of the holiday shopping process, however it is important to stay safe. Unfortunately, cybercriminals don’t take this time off. In fact, they tend to use this time to their advantage.
Here are some tips for protecting yourself online this holiday season, according to NJCCIC:
Be Aware of Suspicious Email Promotions
This time of year, email inboxes are full of promotions from brands encouraging you to shop with them. It makes it easier for cybercriminals to sneak by and create fake emails that look like they’re coming from your favorite retailer.
For example, the NJCCIC has observed Amazon, American Express, and FedEx phishing emails recently attempting to deliver to New Jersey state employees in order to steal users’ credentials. Always double check the email address and navigate directly to a retailer’s website, rather than clicking a link in the email.
Be Cautious of Social Media Ads
Similarly, users are often flooded with holiday shopping social media ads during this time. Though many of these are legitimate, it is important to be aware of ads that link to suspicious websites that could be used to install malware, steal credentials or sell counterfeit goods. If a link has been shortened, always use a URL expander to reveal its true destination.
Online Shop at Home
Avoid using public computers, or public Wi-Fi, to do your online shopping. Public computers could have malware designed to steal your information, while hackers can intercept network traffic over unencrypted Wi-Fi signals. If you do connect in public, be sure to use a VPN to secure your information.
Enable Multi-Factor Authentication
As a general rule of thumb, you should have multi-factor (MFA) authentication enabled on all of your accounts to keep them safe. This will reduce the risk of your account being compromised, even if a cybercriminal obtains your email and password.
Use Payments with Greater Consumer Protections
Online shoppers should use credit cards over debit cards due to the fact that they usually have better consumer fraud protections. Some banks also offer merchant-specific “virtual cards” that can be used instead of your actual payment card number.
You should also consider enabling charge notifications so you can easily and readily identify any fraudulent transactions.