This year, almost all we do has moved online—from the way we work and collaborate to how we interact socially and explore the world—and as the holiday season approaches, shopping is no exception.
The convenience of grabbing door-busting deals online and next-day delivery has been growing in popularity for a while now. However, this season, consumers are expected to shop online more than ever before, leaving technology to play a starring role for shoppers trying to avoid crowds during the pandemic.
Just recently, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention declared shopping in crowded stores a high-risk activity that is likely to spread COVID-19. In response, Andrew Lipsman, an eMarketer principal analyst at Insider Intelligence, stated that combined, those who plan to minimize their in-person shopping trips are projected to spend over 190 billion dollars online.
Two of the most popular (and fast approaching!) Thanksgiving-time events are Black Friday and Cyber Monday. With this in mind, many organizations are offering tips to make your online holiday shopping cheerful AND secure.
Stay Safe Online from the National Cyber Security Alliance wants shoppers this year to stop, think, and connect. Quite often, we assume that we are safe online, but we must remember to take security precautions and think about our actions. To have peace of mind while purchasing, Stay Safe Online recommends these tips:
- Lock Down Your Login: Shoppers should create long and unique passphrases for all accounts and use two-factor authentication whenever possible as a way to protect their accounts. This will fortify your accounts with the strongest authentication tools possible.
- Do Your Homework: Before clicking on a link in an email that is supposed to lead to a great deal, go directly to the company’s website to make sure the deal is legitimate.
- Know What You’re Giving Away: Be aware of the kind of information merchants are collecting from you during your purchase. If you are uncomfortable providing the requested information, cancel the transaction. Also, do not allow merchants to automatically store your payment information on their sites in your profile. If the information automatically saves, you should delete it.
- Consider Your Payment Options: Make sure to check and review bank account and credit card statements for unauthorized transactions. Set an account alert to receive a notification whenever a charge is made using your debit or credit card.
- Check Your Sources: Scrutinize websites to confirm they are not fake. Cybercriminals are known for setting up fake sites, especially during the holidays. To determine if a site is real, read reviews, search for a physical location, and even seek out customer service information. Finally, calling the merchant can also help determine if the site is legitimate.
In addition to taking safety precautions as suggested by Stay Safe Online, the United States Chamber of Commerce offered their expertise and advice for everyone to follow this season:
- Trust Your Instincts: If something sounds too good to be true, it likely is. Don’t take the bait or fall for scams.
- Insist on secure transactions: Make sure the websites you use begin with HTTPS://. The ‘s’ means the site is secure! Also, look for the lock symbol on the bottom of your browser.
- Beware Missing Sales Tax Charges: Businesses trading in counterfeit goods don’t report sales to government authorities. The difference may be reflected in the final price.
- International Shipping Caution: Be careful when buying items on international websites. Verify that the vendor is trusted, uses identifiable privacy and security safeguards, and has a legitimate address.
- Spread Awareness: This may be the first year that people around the nation try their hand at grabbing deals online. Share safety tips with family, friends, and coworkers so they can be protected!
- Verify Your Shipping: Many times, cybercriminals will use logos from popular companies to send fake tracking numbers and information. Go directly to the shipper’s site and enter the tracking information received from the merchant.
Don’t let cybercriminals’ holidays be merry and bright! Take the necessary steps to thwart them with this helpful information. From everyone in ITS, we wish you a safe and secure holiday season.