With 92 percent of people now shopping online, we’ve become a nation of fairly savvy internet consumers. Even so, estimates suggest that nearly 40 percent of shoppers have fallen victim to online scams, and 20 percent have been victimized more than once! For hackers and scam artists, the holiday season is a time to get creative and clever, which means holiday shoppers should take extra care. Be aware of some of the most common tricks so that you can avoid them and have a hack-free holiday.
You probably receive emails from your favorite retailers, offering links to sales or items of interest. Before you click on a link, take a moment to make sure the email is legitimately from the retailer. A popular scam is to “spoof” emails from trusted organizations, and they can often look very much like the real thing. Here are a few ways to tell the difference:
- Look closely at the URL and sender name for extra letters in the domain, such as Yahooo.com. Sometimes those letters can be very cleverly hidden such as in modem.com versus modern.com or wal-mart.com versus wa1-mart.com.
- Check the sender and domain names for unusual variations, such as Targethome.today or Amazoncom.me.
- Be on the lookout for domains that have added affixes, such as starbucks.com-latte.us.
- Typos in the email can be a warning signal.
When in doubt, it’s safest to go directly to the retailer’s website from your browser, rather than clicking through from a link in an email.
Consider using a credit card or online payment service to shop instead of a debit card. Credit cards generally offer greater safety guarantees and easier recourse if you become a victim of fraud. Most importantly, they don’t link directly to your bank account. Also, consider freezing your credit so fraudsters cannot open new accounts in your name.
Lastly, when providing your credit card or other payment information, check the domain and make sure it starts with https:// rather than http://. That one “s” in https means that the information is protected and encrypted, making it much more difficult to hack into.
As we near Cyber-Monday (which has become more popular than Black Friday!), may you enjoy a safe and secure holiday shopping experience!