Black Friday is here once again, and that means lots of great deals to be had! It also means cyber crooks will be out in full force trying to trick you into compromising your online security. Follow these simple tips to ensure you stay safe when hunting for those bargains.
1. Only when you trust a website do you purchase anything from them!
It’s so easy these days to create a professional looking, fully functional e-commerce website using made-for-you templates, so don’t be fooled because a website looks legitimate. There are so many fake retailers out there selling counterfeit goods (or will just keep your money and not send anything!)
Obviously the easiest way to trust a website is to stick to the reputable companies like Amazon, eBay and the official websites of brands. But that’s not always possible, especially if you’re after specific items or want to support smaller, local businesses.
So if you don’t know the website you’re on and want to make sure it’s legitimate…
1. Google the website URL and check for feedback. If there is no feedback (or bad feedback) or very little presence online, this should be a major red flag.
2. On the payment page, make sure the web address starts with HTTPS (or has a padlock) to ensure it’s a secure webpage. The padlock should appear on your browser next to the web address.
3. Check the WHOIS public information on the website to see when the domain was registered. If it’s really new, then you shouldn’t be making any purchases from them.
4. If they want you to pay through Western Union or MoneyGram, then LEAVE!
5. If they’re asking for you online banking password, or PIN number, then LEAVE!
6. Bad spelling or poor grammar should be a really big red flag.
7. If the site is offering deals that appear too good to be true, then treat the website with extra caution and never make that purchase unless you’re 100% confident the site is the real deal.
2. Be EXTREMELY wary of emails with attachments
With so many people purchasing items online during Black Friday, scammers will know that many of us will also be expecting email receipts or invoices, or emails pertaining to recent online purchases. This means lots of potential for a variety of social engineering tricks to lure us into opening up dangerous email attachments.
For example, emails that claim to contain an Amazon invoice, a receipt, or a courier delivery notice. Or maybe an email saying there was a problem with a recent online payment. However lurking inside the attachment will be malware, including the particularly dangerous ransomware!
Simple tip – don’t open up email attachments unless you’re sure they’re legitimate. If you’re not sure, ask first.
3. Watch out for messages on Facebook or WhatsApp claiming to give away freebies or great deals
Usually these links will lead to spammy websites that just want you to sign up for a variety of sweepstakes that usually result in your contact information being sold to lots of marketing companies who will then spam you incessantly.
Even if these links appear to have been sent by friends, they still can’t be trusted, because many of these schemes will trick your friends into sharing their links. If in doubt, don’t click on the links!
4. You’re not going to win a Christmas vacation (or anything else) just for sharing a post on Facebook
If we’ve said once, we’ve said it a thousand times – you’re not going to win expensive prizes from anonymous Facebook pages just for liking and sharing their Facebook posts. These schemes are PROLIFIC on Facebook (and that’s an understatement) but Facebook users continue to do it “just in case” they’re the real deal, unaware they’re making themselves the target for more serious scams.
Yes, you can enter real promotions on Facebook, but they will be published by the OFFICIAL Facebook page of the brand behind the promotion, not from anonymous pages with names like “Christmas Daily Deals” or “Santa’s Deals Workshop”.
5. Don’t shop on public Wi-Fi
This one should these days be a given, but so many people still do it! There are so many tools available that allow crooks to eavesdrop on your conversations and data when using public Wi-Fi, which could potentially lead to them acquiring your sensitive login details or worse, your online banking details. So don’t do it!
Also be aware that crooks can even set up fake hotspots and wait for victims to connect to them, making it even easier for them to intercept your data!