The time we’ve been waiting for all year is finally here: Black Friday and Cyber Monday are upon us. The holidays are the season for spending time with cherished family and friends, but Black Friday is much better because you get to buy new stuff. Friends and family move away, they get busy and can’t see you, but your new stuff will sit in your home with you until it has to be forklifted out to clear a path after you get trapped under a pile of 70% off Google Homes.
But the coming sales aren’t all fun and games. As the holiday shopping season ramps up, cyber criminals are also ramping up their activities. Here’s how you can protect yourself from being a victim of cybercrime this holiday season.
Don’t shop online in public
Seriously: the whole goal of online shopping is so you can sit in your house in your underwear and order as many pairs of Air Jordans as your credit card limit will allow. So why, in 2018, are people still leaving their houses to do this? Pro tip: being inside your house is always safer than not being inside your house. Additionally, sitting in a coffee shop while entering your credit card number will just leave you open to scammers looking over your shoulder, and they will also see that you decided a toaster would be a good gift for your mom. Additionally, using public WiFi to make purchases is not recommended: when possible, use your home WiFi or another trusted network. Also seriously, a toaster?!
Use sites you trust
Now is not the time to try anything fancy: go to the sites you know, and if you want to shop somewhere new and unfamiliar, research the company online to make sure it’s legitimate.
Make sure you use secure sites
You’ll want to use sites that use HTTPS instead of HTTP. Websites that have HTTPS in their URL will encrypt all information sent between your browser and the website. If this is too boring to remember (it is) just look for a little lock right beside the URL in your web address bar. Keep in mind that this is not a guarantee that the website is safe, but this does add an extra layer of security.
Check your bank statements regularly
Check your bank statement online, and check it often to ensure that no suspicious activity has transpired in any of your depleted accounts. Call your bank immediately if you notice something is off. And while it is highly suspicious that you bought an EZ Bake oven for yourself, that’s not the type of suspicious activity you’re looking for.
Do all that boring stuff we always tell you to do
Update your passwords regularly. Don’t use the same password twice. Ensure your computer’s software is up-to-date. Use anti-virus software. Don’t hand out your social security number like it’s Monica’s Christmas candy. Appreciate all Friends references.
Avoid using your credit card when possible
No, that doesn’t mean you should use debit. In fact, please don’t! But apps like Apple Pay are more secure, and many large retailers are now accepting Apple Pay through their apps. Many banks also offer virtual credit cards specifically for online transactions so that your real card number doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. Unless the wrong hands are also your hands, in which case I cannot help you.
Don’t shop on websites using your mobile browser
It’s hard to see if they’re secure. Instead, use the retailer’s app. Yes, this means you must download yet another app as you’re hunched over your desk at work just trying to buy a pair of boots before anyone notices you haven’t sent the invoice you promised Cathy, but Cathy can wait. This is your online safety we’re talking about, Cathy!!
Don’t click on links
Type the website URL directly into your browser’s address bar instead of clicking on links sent to you through email, text, or other messaging apps. Scammers will often send emails or messages that look exactly like a retailer’s marketing materials, but these links will direct you to a fake website or install malware on your device.
Spend all your money!!!
Max out those credit cards and drain your accounts. If you have nothing to steal, scammers cannot steal from you. (This is obviously a joke – it’s important to spend wisely and make sure that you have money left over for food. Do you have money to buy me food? Just kidding. Unless you’re offering.)
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are a great way to temporarily escape from the dreary prison of your life. Just make sure to follow these tips so you can ensure that you are the only one spending your money. Happy shopping!!