Black Friday and Cyber Monday have reached epic proportions with reason. People realize they can get incredible deals, both in-store or while conveniently shopping from their desktop or mobile device.
Unfortunately, increased sales also means increased risk for consumers. Buyers are exposed to more fake apps, banking Trojans and device backdoors and have a greater chance of scams, hacks, or identity theft.
Here’s what you can do to protect yourself from risk so you can tap into the best bargains this year.
Review Antivirus Software
By now most people realize antivirus software is a necessity, but many don’t update software regularly. Some don’t even have antivirus on their mobile devices.
Most security companies now suggest a virtual personal network (VPN) when shopping online, besides a suite that protects you from Trojans, worms, and phishing. A VPN adds an extra layer of protection between you and a hacker as they can only see you’re connected to a remote VPN server, not the actual pages you use.
If you’re a diehard fan of mobile, always shop using a secure network such as a VPN. Wi-Fi is very vulnerable to hackers.
Use a Credit Card or Mobile Wallet
You may automatically choose debit to avoid the interest on credit cards, but credit cards do offer benefits.
Credit cards usually offer valuable consumer protections, providing you understand them. They may protect you if a thief racks up charges on your card or if you buy from a fraudulent website. Regardless, they are generally a better choice than giving a hacker access to your bank accounts.
Alternatively, use a mobile payment application. They digitally encrypt your data and allow fast checkouts. Google Pay, Apple Pay, and PayPal One Touch are popular choices.
Desktop is Safer
Shopping on your smartphone or tablet might be convenient, but mobile devices are very vulnerable. According to a study published by Positive Technologies, 76 percent of mobile applications do not secure personal data, passwords, and financial data properly.
Additionally, it is much easier for scammers to send shoppers to cloned websites since mobile devices often shorten URLs and shoppers don’t notice it.
Choose HTTPS Websites
When you decide to buy online you’ll want to ensure the vendor properly protects your data. An HTTPS website uses an encrypted connection between the browser and the web server.
Why is this important? It ensures the data traveling between your browser and the web server reaches the vendor and isn’t intercepted by unintended users (a.k.a. thieves). Obviously, this is very important if you’re relaying Personal Identifiable Information or transactional data through your credit card.
Don’t Go Phishing
Yes, retailers send out emails and coupons trying to entice buyers, but so do cybercriminals. If you see something of interest in your inbox, don’t automatically click through. Check the hyperlink, either by hovering over it or right-clicking it for the source.
If a coupon wants you to complete a survey, asks you to download an app, or immediately asks for personal information, it’s probably a scam. Don’t be the fish that gets hauled into a criminal’s phishing website. Go directly to the retailer’s website if the deal seems too good to be true.
Take Your Time
Criminals love buyer frenzy during these events. Always review the website carefully for grammatical errors, misspellings, or a shabby website design.
If it looks suspicious, absolutely check multiple reviews on trusted websites before you buy.
Add Insurance Protection
Most people don’t give cyber protection much thought, until they’re compromised. Unfortunately, cybercrime is a growing problem and security on your devices can’t provide 100% protection. Criminals devise new tactics faster than the industry can respond.
As a result, it makes sense to buy protection from the financial implications of identity theft. Luckily, most insurance companies allow you to add this coverage to your home insurance policy.