Holiday Online Shopping Safety Tips

Topics: Cyber Liability

Summary: Cyber crimes increase during the busy holiday online shopping season. During Cyber Monday, we share some important information about the common types of online holiday scams and tips for safely shopping online during these hectic times.

Staying Safe While Shopping Online This Holiday Season

Every holiday season, more consumers bypass the busy malls to enjoy shopping online for gifts from the comfort of their homes. In fact, Cyber Monday, which takes place the Monday after Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, is consistently one of the busiest online shopping days in the United States. Sales continue to remain high throughout the gift-buying season.

Unfortunately, the hectic holiday online shopping season provides the perfect opportunity for scammers and hackers to steal consumers’ sensitive information. Every year, thousands of individuals fall victim to holiday online scams that can leave them feeling anything but festive.

Types of Holiday Online Scams

holiday online shopping safety tips

The first step in avoiding holiday scams is to understand what types of scams are most common this time of year. A few to look out for include the following:

Charity Scams

Throughout the holiday season, people often look for ways to give back to those less fortunate – and scammers are ready to take advantage of their big hearts. A popular online charity scam involves cyber criminals directing users to make donations on fake websites. What’s worse, these scams are usually difficult to detect until the individual has lost money or sensitive data. Always verify that the charity is legitimate before donating any money or providing any type of personal information.

Social Media Scams

Social media sites may post ads from scammers with enticing offers for gift cards or cash prizes simply by completing an online survey. Once the survey is completed, the cyber criminal is often privy to an abundance of the victim’s personal information. Or, the scammer may create ads to fake listings of the year’s biggest toy or other coveted items, leading to a consumer providing sensitive data in return for receiving nothing at all after the “purchase.” Never assume a store or listing on a social media site is legitimate; instead, watch for signs that it could lead to a fake website.

Holiday Email Scams

Holiday email scams are rampant this time of year, with phishing emails going out posing as well-known companies or organizations consumers trust, like Amazon or UPS. Keep in mind that any unsolicited messages offering deep discounts, prizes or free items asking one to “click here” to claim it could be a scam.

Fake Online Gift Exchanges

This type of holiday online scam is often known as a “Secret Santa” scam. One might see the option to join a gift exchange on a social media site that offers participants the chance to receive as many as 36 gifts simply for sending just one small item, like a ten-dollar gift card. However, the user must provide personal information such as their name, address and other data, like friends’ contact information, to join in – which will all go directly to the scammer.

Gift Card Scams

Gift card scams are a favorite of cyber criminals because a gift card is basically impossible to trace. A scammer may create a fake store or sell gift cards on a website like eBay at a discounted price, luring the buyer into purchasing what is actually an empty gift card with no value. Always make sure to purchase gift cards from reputable retailers online by checking that the website URL is secure.

Lookalike Online Stores and Websites

Scammers bank on the fact that people are too busy shopping and rushing to get things done that they don’t realize they’re on a fake website designed to look like a big box store or other well-known retailer. They offer huge discounts to entice shoppers to the website, and once there, the thieves will steal credit card numbers and other information when purchases are made. Or, they may require purchases to be made with a gift card or wire transfer – which cannot be reversed. Always try to shop only at reputable online stores throughout the holiday season.

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4 Tips for Safely Shopping Online for the Holidays

It’s vital for consumers to understand how to stay safe when shopping online for gifts this holiday season. Here are four tips to keep in mind before logging on to purchase presents this year:
  1. Be cautious when opening emails from unknown senders. Never open emails from an unsolicited sender, and especially do not click on any suspicious links within the email. Remember, if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  2. Shop on reliable, well-known websites. It may be easy to be swayed by the promise of a big sale or huge discount on items on loved ones’ wish lists, but going to a website via a social media ad or email link could lead directly into the hands of a scammer. Always visit the sites of trusted retailers by entering the URL directly into the address bar.
  3. Check financial statements often throughout the season. If an individual falls victim to an online scam, they may not even realize it until it’s too late. Be sure to log in and check bank and credit card statements at least weekly when increasing online shopping to verify all purchases. This will be the first indication that information or an identity has been stolen.
  4. Always use a secure network when holiday shopping online. Connecting to unsecured, public Wi-Fi can be dangerous when shopping or banking this season. When shopping on a home network, be sure the Wi-Fi is secured by enabling strong encryption with a strong passphrase.
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Cyber Insurance from AmTrustCyber

Like consumers, businesses of all sizes are at risk of falling victim to a cybersecurity attack. Small businesses are often especially vulnerable due to a lack of resources and expertise that larger operations may have. Cyber insurance from AmTrustCyber gives your small business insureds the comprehensive financial protection and expert assistance needed to navigate a brand range of cyber threats to their data, operations and reputation. Contact us today to learn more.

This material is for informational purposes only and is not legal or business advice. Neither AmTrust Financial Services, Inc. nor any of its subsidiaries or affiliates represents or warrants that the information contained herein is appropriate or suitable for any specific business or legal purpose. Readers seeking resolution of specific questions should consult their business and/or legal advisors. Coverages may vary by location. Contact your local RSM for more information.

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