Sidestepping Cyberscammers

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    In today’s “Money Mondays” segment, Mellody Hobson gives you the inside scoop on cyberscammers and how to avoid them.

    With Black Friday behind us, we’re now in full-swing holiday shopping season. But before you nab those “can’t be beat” deals, consider my advice about protecting yourself online. Today kicks off the online holiday buying frenzy, meaning cyberscammers are so happy, they’re singing Christmas carols, so I couldn’t be catching you at a more opportune time!

    Last year, consumers spent about $1.5 billion on Cyber Monday, up 16% from 2011. Industry experts predict this season will see even more growth. Coupled with the boom in sales is a predicted increase in the amount and severity of online scamming and data theft. So I want to cover a few key points to help everyone minimize their online risk.

    First, don’t click on popup ads. Malicious popup ads are one of the most prevalent security threats to online shoppers. When in doubt, put down that mouse! The same goes for email. Don’t click through a tantalizing email offer. And don’t think that because it comes from a “friend” via social media that it’s safe: Social media is the cyberscammer’s playground. To avoid getting hacked, enter a store’s url directly instead of clicking through a promotional link.

    This is where keeping your computer and apps updated has its benefits. Updates help keep security tight. Speaking of which, there are a number of free anti-virus software options available. But at the very least, make your passwords hard to crack. That means your birthday and your pets’ names are off limits.

    Next, be wary of who you’re ordering from. Stick to merchants that you know and trust, and when it comes to sites that sell through third parties like ebay, Amazon and Etsy, ensure the seller has a high number of positive reviews and a return policy you can live with.

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