Some of us might be preparing to feast this Thanksgiving and start preparing for the unofficial start to holiday shopping, retail stores are getting ready for their biggest days yet - Black Friday and Cyber Monday. While consumers are searching the internet high and low for the best deals, cyber criminals and hackers are searching high and low for their next victims. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the perfect time for these cyber criminals to take advantage of those who aren't aware of the risks.
While starting up your research on what stores you want to visit this Black Friday, what deals each store is having, and what coupons are out there, be sure to be on the lookout for fake websites. Know where you are shopping and look up reviews on websites you have not heard of before to see if they are legit. In some cases, not knowing the site is fake and or the site isn't secure, personal information can be stolen. Be aware of the web address and ensure that the web address stars with ‘https://', which indicates the site is secure, as well as a padlock on your browser.
Credit Card Skimming
While hackers can replicate a website to be exactly identical to the real one to take your money, they can also skim your credit card in stores. Hackers can easily place the skimmer directly on top of the origianl credit card reader. When the debit or credit card is swiped, the skimming device captures and stores the details of your card. Some hackers might go to the extreme and place the skimmer at a gas station or an ATM where they can place an indetectable camera to capture your pin.
There are also scams such as a pre-recorded phone call from someone mentioning you are qualified to lower your interest rate if you sign up/enroll in a program and even sometimes pay a fee.
A step towards trying to avoid these hacks were recently implemented - chip enabled cards - to help reduce credit fraud. Remember to cover your pin when entering it around others, try to use cash when possible, and to avoid the phishing emails from your credit card issuer as they will not reach out to you via email.
Social Links & Coupons
When browsing the web, you'll see many innocent-looking links that can read "Click here to receive 75% off your purchase". Once the link is clicked, you're vulnerable to obtaining malware on your phone, tablet, or computer that can steal your personal and or financial information. One way to protect yourself is to never click a suspicious link. Some deals may be true, but it isn't worth the risk of clicking the social link promoted to you- especially the pop-up flashy coupons. Be sure to browse the official site that you are shopping for online or in-store coupons.
Around the holidays, you're likely ordering many different items online, whether it be in stores that you purchase the item online or in your own home. Many order confirmation and tracking emails flood your email inbox! Be cautious for fake emails that will come to your email inbox "confirming an order" that you have not purchased. Knowing that you are more than likely shopping online often, hackers can send a malicious email guiding you to click a link that can then expose your information to the hacker. Employing phishing and training within your organization can help employees spot a fake email. One of the biggest red flags is the sender - check who the email is from before clicking any links!
Thieves look for ways to break into insecure Wi-Fi networks to gather personal data. Therefore, it is important to avoid entering personal information over public Wi-Fi networks where data is not usually encrypted. It is safer to use your cell network or hotspot.
When shopping online, be sure to create a unique username and password when checking out. If you are able to remember your password very easily, there's a high chance of your account being hacked. We suggest using a password that is complex and includes a variety of letters, numbers, and characters. Be sure to have different passwords for different accounts in the incident of your password being stolen, you are more vulnerable to have all accounts hacked. We also suggest to change your passwords every 3 months to prevent intruders.
Here are some additional quick tips for cyber safety during the holiday shopping season:
Do not click on a link unless it is from a trusted source
Make sure the destination URL is where you were intending to go
Make sure your phone and other devices are password protected
Look for credit card readers that may protrude past the rest of the machine as it may be a skimmer
Use unique passwords for every online account
Do not enter personal information over public Wi-Fi networks
Use a credit card instead of a debit card when making purchases
Check the 'To', 'From' and 'CC' fields of an email
This article was originally written on 11/21/17 and has been updated as of 11/20/18
Cover photo: iStockphoto
Article photo: JuralMin