It’s almost Black Friday and Cyber Monday, that beautiful time of year when Americans forgo their normal, reasonable fiscal concerns and embrace the spirit of profligate consumerism that truly characterizes our great country. But before you pull out your credit card to splurge needlessly on a new 4K OLED or one Meta Quest Pro or, if you’re feeling extra daring, a Humane AI pin, it might be best to take a quick look at some online safety tips. Just as you may be looking for bargains, cybercriminals are looking for the weakest members of the digital herd and hoping to rip them off hard.
Yes, hackers love bargain days as much as the rest of us, because it’s the perfect opportunity to phish an unsuspecting gift buyer. With that in mind, here are some tips to stay safe amid the shopping frenzy.
- Be wary of the “deals” you find on social networks. Security experts agree that a large number of scams will be perpetrated on social media this year. Social media is generally not the best place to search for high-quality information about anything, whether it’s politics, news, or Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. Social media scams can take many forms, including trending posts that redirect users to questionable websites offering deals that are clearly too good to be true. It’s a pretty standard product, but I encourage you to avoid any posts on Facebook or Instagram promising extremely low prices.
- Avoid the dreaded fake shipping notification. These days, if you buy products online, you’re probably signed up for text and/or email notifications designed to keep you up to date with order confirmations and shipping updates. With so many orders in circulation, it’s easy to get confused and not differentiate between a legitimate notification and a phishing message that has been disguised to look like a real message from UPS, Fedex, USPS, DHL or from a retailer. I recommend that you always carefully check the content of every message you receive, consider where it came from, and never click on a link unless you are absolutely sure that it is safe. Again, pretty standard stuff.
- Beware of fake websites and phishing scams. I hope you stick to well-known websites and companies when shopping. Still, some desperate buyers may find themselves thinking off the beaten path and scouring any website that claims to be able to offer them a good deal. It’s probably a bad decision. Security experts say many holiday scams this year will use websites that appear to offer deeply discounted prices for expensive, hard-to-find items; Unfortunately, these sites will be little more than an opportunity for the customer to have their money and personal information stolen.
Let’s be honest: Most of us are going to order the majority of our products from places like Amazon or Best Buy, which means the chances of you coming across a fake website or social media scam will be , hopefully weak. Of course, the scammers know you’ll go to Amazon or Best Buy, so that’s who they’ll impersonate. It always pays to be careful, so keep your head up and stay on the lookout for these phishing messages and questionable offers. Tens of millions of dollars are lost every year to this sort of thing; you definitely don’t want to be one of the unlucky few.