15 tips to stay safe while shopping online from Black Friday to Cyber Monday

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With many retailers offering internet-only promotions to go along with their in-store doorbusters, more Americans than ever seem to be choosing to stay home to take advantage of the best deals of the season.

Research from Visa projects an 18 percent increase in online holiday spending this year, which follows 16 percent growth over the 2015 season from the year before. That uptick in 2015 resulted in about $11 billion of online sales over the five-day Thanksgiving weekend period (Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday).

That’s why it’s essential that shoppers protect themselves and their personal information more than ever in 2016. Especially since “25 percent of all security breaches [are] taking placein the retail sector,” said Experts Exchange COO Gene Richardson in a statement to Mashable.

As a former head of the datasecurity teams of IBM, Charles Schwab and Motorola, Richardson has extensive experience advising companies and consumers alike on how to avoid fraud and protect their identities online.

With that in mind, he’s assembled a set of helpful online shopping safety tips:

1. Ensure that the website address is secure and has a valid encryption certificate. It will usually display a locked, green indicator in front of the website name.If it doesnt have that, it does not have a higher level of security that has been guaranteed by a known entity like Verisign, Symantec and others.

2. Ensure your system has the most recent recommended system and security patches.

3. Always use a credit card that is not tied directly to your personal bank account(s), even if you are using PayPal, Bitcoin or some other payment method.

4. Never give anything other than name, address and phone number. You should not need to answer security or privacy questions when making a purchase or checking out.If they ask, see if you can checkout as a guest instead.

5. Monitor your credit through a third party for identify theft and have SMS and email alerts sent to you immediately.

6. Set-up alerts with your credit card company that send both SMS and emails when any purchases are made and the credit card was not scanned (meaning, it wasnt in someones hand when the charge was made). Set them as low as $25 per purchase.Also, set-up alerts for total purchases over $500 in a billing period to protect multiple $24.99 purchases. And if possible, a maximum amount of purchases allowed in a billing period such as $1500 before card will get declined.

7. Ensure that you have a reputable Antivirus program running on your computer and that your browser has an Ad blocking plug-in.

8. Ensure that the network your computer/device is on is secure and you know who has access to your network.This is usually done with your router.You want to lock down your router so that traffic can be initiated from the inside-out but you do not want traffic to be initiated from the outside-in.If you are using a WiFi connection, make sure that network is also secure and requires a password to join.If it is a public WiFi network that doesnt require a password, then the traffic coming from your device can be monitored and stolen.

9. Any passwords that you use should be strong, hard to guess ones. Or, even better, hard to guess, but easy to remember.

10. Dont click on unfamiliar links to sites advertising sales, coupons, etc.

11. Use two-factor authentication/verification, if it is offered.

 

Mobile Concerns

Those are all good tips, but mobile security is also important. Almost 30 percent of Black Friday and Cyber Monday purchases will be placed on mobile devices, according to digital risk management company RiskIQ.

RiskIQ found that 1 in 10 mobile apps that appeared in the results of a ‘Black Friday’ search in global app stores is blacklisted as malicious.

Many of these malicious apps look to take advantage of shoppers’ mistakes while looking for official apps. Fraudsters have taken to promoting fake apps designed to mimic those of legit retailers the top five retail brands leading in eCommerce have had a combined total of more than 1,950 blacklisted URLs that contain their branded terms along with Black Friday.

These apps are built to fool users into entering credit card information or downloading malware to steal personal information or lock the device until the user pays a ransom.

To stay safe while shopping on your phone or tablet, be sure to follow these tips, according to RiskIQ:

1. Only download apps from official app marketplaces like Google Play or Apple’s App Store.

2. Be wary of applications that ask for suspicious permissions, like access to contacts, text messages, administrative features, stored passwords, or credit card info.

3. Check out the background of an app before downloading. Research the developer and be cognizant of the spelling of brand names.

4. Make sure to take a deep look at each app. New developers, or developers that leverage free email services (e.g., @gmail) for their developer contact, can be enormous red flags threat actors often use these services to produce mass amounts of malicious apps in a short period. Also, poor grammar in the description highlights the haste of development and the lack of marketing professionalism that are hallmarks of mobile malware campaigns.

 

Common Sense

Just like any other time of the year, a deal found online over Thanksgiving weekend that seems too good to be true might be just that.

In addition to Richardson’s first tip about web page encryption certificates, always check website addresses after following links on Twitter, Facebook or even Google to be sure you haven’t been redirected. Legitimate retailers will almost always be determined by the S in HTTPS at retail sites.

Finally, keep your personal and financial information close at hand. Never provide anything until you’ve done your homework on a site or app, and even then never input anything until you’ve selected your purchase and are checking out.

With a measured approach to online shopping, you can dodge the in-store lines and the security risks this holiday season.

BONUS: These self-driving buses could make owning a car totally pointless

 

Read more: http://mashable.com/2016/11/21/online-shopping-safety-black-friday-cyber-monday/

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