As millions of consumers start clicking their way through holiday shopping today for Cyber Monday, so too are hackers, cyber scammers and con artists gearing up to rip off American buyers.
In response, federal agencies tasked with cyber security have recently put out bulletins filled with tips to help protect consumers as they shop online. Check out some of the tips below and then click the following links for additional security information.
- Stick With What You Know: “When shopping online, make sure to use reputable sites,” says a recent report from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). “It’s best to shop on sites with which you are familiar and that have an established reputation as trusted online retailers.”
- Too Good to Be True Probably Is: The IC3 advises consumers to be wary of Cyber Monday advertisements that sound too good to be true, especially if you see them in an email. Phishing emails could link consumers to fake store websites designed to steal a person’s personal or financial information. If you want to see if a deal at a store is real, enter the website for the store into the URL bar yourself (don’t trust the link).
- Feeling Lucky? Not So Fast: If you’re searching for a particular item using a search engine, stop before clicking on that first link. IC3 says to take a look at the search results before clicking and be on the lookout for “fraudsters” who make their website appear to look like real, well-known ones. If you think you’ve found the item you want at a particular store, go to that store’s official website first, then try to find the item that way.
- E-Cards, E-Worries: E-Cards may be cute, but they can also contain malware, according to U.S.-Cyber Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT). Beware of E-cards from people you don’t recognize or invitations you didn’t expect.
- Maintain Up-to-date Antivuris Software: Even if you’re careful where you click online, US-CERT urges consumers to make sure their antivirus software is up-to-date, just in case some malware slips in.
- Check Out the Charities: The holidays are a popular time to give a little to charity, but before you break out your wallet, make sure you know where the money is really going. US-CERT suggests you look up charities you’re interested in at the Better Business Bureau’s National Charity Report Index.
- Keep an Eye on Your Credit: “While monitoring credit reports on an annual basis and reviewing account statements each month is always a good idea, consumers should keep a particularly watchful eye on their personal credit information at this time of year,” IC3 says. “Scrutinizing credit card bills for any fraudulent activity can help to minimize victims’ losses.”