Holiday seasons are a popular time for last-minute shopping, impulse purchases, large expenses and lavish gifts. It’s no surprise that it’s therefore also one of the most attractive periods for thieves and hackers looking to steal personal information and the money that comes with it. Those who do a lot of online shopping during the holidays should take their time to familiarize themselves with some of the most common scam techniques that they may encounter, and know what they can do to avoid falling for popular types of traps.
Be Wary Of Phishing
A common tactic involves sending phishing mails pretending to be from various popular and well known online stores, usually notifying the user of some issue with a recent purchase. Since the likelihood that you’ve actually made a purchase in the last few days is higher during this period, it’s not rare that people get tricked into opening those messages and following the links inside. This sometimes even works on more experienced users who should know better, so make sure that you inspect every e-mail that might potentially be suspicious. If there’s any doubt, go to the website in question manually by typing its address into your browser’s URL bar instead of clicking the link from the mail.
Try To Avoid Unknown Stores
If possible, don’t shop at new and unfamiliar places. It’s not rare that scammers may setup a “burner” store that only exists for the duration of the holiday season, collecting payments and financial details about their “customers”, but not actually sending out anything. Or, the site might actually take the extra step to seem legitimate and deliver what you’ve ordered, only to exploit the information you’ve submitted to them a few weeks later when your guard is down. Limit your shopping to sites that you’re already familiar with, and if you have to make an exception, do some research into the new place you’re about to purchase from. It might be a completely legitimate online store, and that should be easy to verify with a few clicks.
Inspect Coupons Carefully
Another common scam might try to lure you towards shady online stores with attractive-looking coupons for large discounts. This is especially common with major luxury brands that are normally priced above the average person’s budget, making the coupons particularly attractive for late holiday shoppers looking for a last-moment miracle. If it looks too good to be true, there’s probably something shady with the whole deal indeed. Try to look up if there is any traceable history of those coupons being handed out on the web before the current holiday season, or similar offers from the same company. If it’s a legitimate deal, it shouldn’t be the first time they’ve had some presence on the market, and that should be pretty simple to verify too. Of course, there is always a slim chance that one of those unknown deals is actually backed by a completely legitimate and well-meaning company, but that’s usually not a risk worth taking when it comes to large expenses.
Use Proper Security Measures
Make sure that you have anti-malware software installed on your computer and running at all times during your shopping. Pay attention to the alerts you get too, and don’t disregard them thinking that you know better. After all, the whole point of using antivirus and similar tools is that they compensate for lapses in your own judgment that might cost you dearly later on. You don’t have to go overboard in the way you’re integrating antivirus tools into your daily work either, just make sure that you pay attention to what they are telling you and that they are always up to date and configured properly for any special details that you might have in your workflow.
Also, go through all your important accounts. This includes banking, payment instruments, online stores, etc, and check to see if everything is in order on those fronts. Enable 2-factor authentication wherever it’s supported. It’s more than worth the extra hassle if someone attempts to take over your accounts later on, and it can be a life saver when you’ve had a password compromised. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that this will never happen to you as this is exactly what hackers are counting on!