Cyber Monday: Avoid Being a Victim This Cyber Week

Published on December 1, 2019

Cyber Monday starts tomorrow, and that means holiday shopping is just getting started. Deals are hot, and so is your information.

A Third of Americans Fell Victims to Online Phishing Schemes

According to cybersecurity McAfee, over a third of Americans fell to a phishing scheme in the last year. 41 percent of Americans fell victim to email phishing, 35 percent fell victim to text phishing and 30 percent have lost more than $500 to online scams this year.

This means consumers need to be more vigilant while shopping online, handing out personal information and watching out for phishing sites.

Keep on eye-out for Fake Coupons

The bargains are blinding and the deals seems too good to pass up on. While the deals may entice you, that is exactly how coupon scams work.

Fake coupons pop up all over social media and have legitimate images of the retailer’s logo. Along with instructions to click on them to claim the “deal”. 

And social media has made it even easier because anyone can create, post an ad on Facebook (FB) or Instagram (IG). But by checking the URL and looking for company reviews you can avoid these scams.

A few key indicators a coupon is a hoax is if you are routed to a site asking for your personal information, sends you to a survey or asks you to download an app. 

Another indicator is too-good-to-be-true deals. While some retailers have 20% off, some “offers” are $75 to $100 off or more. This is a red flag.

Use Credit, Avoid Debit for Online Shopping

Another way to protect yourself against identity theft is using credit instead of your debit card.

Software analyst at PCMag Max Eddy says if a thief steals your debit info you are more vulnerable and “if an attacker gets your debit card information they effectively have access to your bank account.”

While you tried avoiding spending more than necessary or interest charges you put yourself at a higher risk of having your banking info stolen. 

The other benefit of using credit includes price protection and extended warranty coverage. A consumer can take a further step and create a virtual burner card, masking your real card number with services like Abine Blur, PrivacyDivvy and many more.

Avoid Using Public Wi-Fi

A public wifi hotspot is a hacker’s paradise and is a common holiday shopping scam. Hackers gain access to your personal info, card number, and can make purchases.

That is because, just like FB or IG ads, anyone can create a fake network to lure in people and disclose their information.

According to PCMAG, “a popular security researcher prank is to create a network with the same name as a free, popular service.” Which is alarming.

The Remedy: a VPN to mask Your Identity

The solution to help mask your IP’s address is using a VPN. What it essentially does it create a secure, encrypted connection between your computer and the server operated by the VPN service.

But in a poll pcmag conducted in 2019 found “ only 15 percent of our 2,000 respondents use a VPN with public Wi-Fi,” and in a survey of 3,000 US consumers conducted between September 23-26, 2018, “48 percent said they have never used a VPN, and 23 percent have in the past but don’t anymore.”

Play it safe during the holiday season and avoid coffee shops, airports, and any place that offers free Wi-Fi. If you do decide to use public Wi-Fi, use a VPN.

Beware of Phishing Emails

Scammers will also send you an avalanche of fake coupons with sweet deals, but there’s only one problem: they are fake.

Email phishing is another common tactic to gain access to your personal data. To make sure you are on a legitimate site, check the URL the email sends you to.

Eddy told Blackfriday, “most people will probably shop on sites they trust, but if you’re using a new site or clicking through a link to a deal you received in an email, you may end up on a phishing site.”

He continued saying, “these sites are designed to steal your personal information and perhaps your payment information by posing as legitimate websites.”

Scammers use tactics such as a count down clock, creating urgency, causing costumers to buy without covering their bases. 

“Limited-time shopping events may pressure people to make decisions they otherwise might not,” Eddy says.

Diversity and Create a Strong Password

No matter how clever you think you are at creating passwords hackers are a step ahead. 

According to PCI Pal, “almost half of American, 47% use the same passwords over and over again.” 

Choose a long, strong and new password for every account, it lowers the chance of your identity being stolen. 

Michael Madon, senour vice president and general manager of security awareness for Mimecast, to CNBC, “Phishing attempts can often be disguised as signups for retail rewards programs…if you take up on the offer, use a password that you haven’t used before.”

Use a Password Manager to Avoid Using the Same Password

You can consider using a password manager like Dashlane, which will generate unique, secure different passwords for your account. And the great part is it remembers them all for you.

Now that you are a little more aware of some of the tactics scammers use, go out and shop with confidence.

Kevin Pichinte is a staff writer at Grit Daily. Based in Los Angeles, he is a news associate at ABC7 and was formerly a digital news intern at NBC7 and TLM20. At Grit Daily, he covers entertainment and culture news.

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