Cyber Monday Security: Get the Best Deals While Staying Safe Online
As Black Friday becomes more and more intense, and people don’t necessarily want to leave their families on Thanksgiving evening to stand in a line, Cyber Monday is becoming a much more favorable alternative. You can stay home in your pajamas (or browse online from work), order your gifts, have them delivered to your door, and still get some pretty good deals.
Yet, with this rising popularity comes new dangers to online shoppers. Scams, potential identity theft or credit card fraud, and getting taken advantage of are all possibilities when shopping for deals online. The time-sensitive nature of Cyber Monday only means people will be more likely to fall prey to being bamboozled. Here are some common things to watch out for and what you should do to keep yourself safe.
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When you think of Cyber Monday, the first retail site people probably think of is Amazon. The retail behemoth has some of the biggest Cyber Monday sales, and there is something for almost everybody on sale. Yet, even this giant company can’t keep out all of the scammers.
What Is the Amazon Scam: Along with buying new products, customers can look into buying a used version of a product from a third party through Amazon. There has been a recent trend, though, where people list a used version of the product, typically for a much lower price. Then, once they get paid, they never send the product and slip away with the money.
If this happens to you, Amazon will refund your money, but you miss out on both the deal and the gift you ordered. If it’s a highly demanded item, buying from the wrong source might mean not getting the product for the holidays, or having to spend tons of extra money in order to get it.
How to Avoid Amazon Scams: To avoid these kinds of scams, check the history of the seller before purchasing from them. Typically, these scam accounts are very new, selling for a much lower price, with strange business/usernames, and/or very low ratings.
Independent Retail Websites
It’s not just Amazon and major retailers that get in on Cyber Monday. Almost every online business has some sort of Cyber Monday sale, including many scammy and fake websites.
What the Independent Retailer Scam Is: The problem that arises during Cyber Monday is that these scam sites create a sense of urgency. “If you don’t act now, other people will take all of the deals and you’ll miss out!” They have a timer or counter counting down until you can’t get the deal anymore, making customers feel like they have to act now, and not take the time to check out the business.
How to Avoid Fraudulent Independent Retailers: If you are going to shop online, you need to look for signs that the website is trustworthy. This includes things like checking the site’s HTTPS status, spotting errors on the site, checking reviews, and making sure everything just feels right (it’s more than okay to trust your gut if it tells you something is off).
To combat fraudulent independent sites, either research what sites and deals you want before Cyber Monday, or take that extra time to study a site before making a purchase. If anything feels off about the deal or the site, don’t give them any information, including email addresses, usernames, passwords, or credit card numbers. Many of these sites are looking to get ahold of any information they can to either steal your identity or your credit card. Protect yourself by only giving out information when it’s needed, or finding more secure alternatives.
Be Wary of Unsolicited Emails
Leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, every business sends out a host of emails proclaiming they have the best deals. It’s alarming how many businesses that you never gave your email to can send you emails about these deals.
What the Cyber Monday Email Scam Is: Major retailers aren’t the only people sending emails during this time though. Some criminals might disguise an email to look like a promotion from a major business promoting their Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals, but contain malware in the email. Typically, malware requires a person to download it to their computer, which is easier to do, since many businesses attach a PDF booklet of their deals. The criminal would just need to disguise their malware like a PDF.
How to Avoid Cyber Monday Email Scams: To prevent picking up a virus, only open emails from businesses that you have giving your email out to, and try to avoid downloading files from those emails you do open. Often, the moment these deals go out, you can also seem them online without downloading a file. It’s also recommended you have anti-malware software, especially one that scans attachments for viruses.
Staying Safe, Being Smart
Just because you have a small window of opportunity in order to get these deals doesn’t mean you should put yourself in danger. What’s the point of saving a few dollars if your credit card is stolen or your computer gets a virus?
Your first priority should always be protecting yourself. If something seems too good to be true, or if something seems wrong, get away from it immediately. There will always be other deals, and getting the perfect gift isn’t worth putting yourself or your finances at risk. Staying safe during the holidays just requires being aware of what is happening and paying attention to clues as you shop.
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Ben Allen is a freelance content creator and digital marketer who believes in helping small businesses succeed. He spends his free time bragging about his two daughters, eating stuffed crust pizza, and playing video games.