Here’s How To Protect Your Money This Holiday Season

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TODAY IS THE BIGGEST ONLINE SHOPPING DAY ALL YEAR, AND YOU HAVE SOME ADVICE FOR US.

Today is Cyber Monday. Americans are expected to spend $7.8 billion online, according to projections from Adobe Analytics, meaning it will be the single largest online shopping day in U.S history, eclipsing Black Friday ($5.9 billion) and Thanksgiving ($3.3 billion). And whenever the internet is involved, fraudsters are close by.

Last year, online fraud attempts rose 22 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, according to payment systems company ACI Worldwide. Between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday alone, malware infections jumped 123 percent in 2017. Because of this, I thought today would be a good day to review some secure online shopping practices so our listeners can protect themselves!

WHAT NEW SCAMS SHOULD WE BE KEEPING AN EYE OUT FOR THIS YEAR?

As more and more of us are shopping on our phone, scammers have been paying attention and taking advantage of some of the vulnerabilities on smartphones. As I have mentioned in the past phones connected to unsecure Wi-Fi connections offer up tremendous amounts of your personal data to bad actors. And increasingly, because mobile browsers have a much shorter address field, shopping on our phones makes it more difficult to see the full URL address, meaning it is harder to spot scam sites.

Apps are also a growing concern. Fake holiday deal apps are being made by scammers to trick users into providing personal financial information, while others contain malware that can steal your data or lock your phone until you pay a ransom fee. A recent report from RiskIQ estimated 5.5% of Black Friday-related apps and 4.6% of Cyber Monday apps on global app stores were malicious or unsafe.

Another recent trend is fake shipping notifications. These show up as an email from a retailer or shipping company such as UPS or FedEx, and usually, the take the form of a shipping delay or some other problem. The email will ask you to click a link for more information, or to click on your tracking number to learn more, triggering a malware download.

WHAT OTHER SCAMS SHOULD WE LOOK OUT FOR THIS YEAR?

We are all still targets of the old bag of tricks too, Tom. Phishing emails continue to be a big problem. These emails look similar to those sent by retailers, and aim to get consumers to click on a link. We can expect a lot of fake websites popping up this time of year as well. As we all face a deluge of holiday deal emails and ads, scammers work to blend in, and they have become very good at it. Malicious emails and fake sites can target your personal information or they may harbor malware.

HOW DO WE AVOID FALLING VICTIM TO THE BAD GUYS?

When it comes to mobile security, best practices are straight forward. Avoid unsecured Wi-Fi networks and manually type in websites addresses. Do your homework before downloading any apps – check for numerous reviews and avoid apps that have been created very recently – and only download them from known app sites such as Apple or Android.

For shipping notifications, do not click on any links or tracking numbers. Instead, go to the retailer or shipper’s site and look up your order status there using the order confirmation or by typing in the tracking number. You can also enter any package tracking number into Google and learn which carrier it is for.

To avoid fake websites, type the address into your browser yourself, rather than clicking on a link. If you are using a smaller retailers website you are unfamiliar with, make sure there is a physical address and phone number listed, and check for reviews on sites like Yelp, Google, or others. And never visit websites that do not start with https. If they are missing the s, they are not secure.

Finally, really scrutinize any emails you receive. While some are easy to catch because they have odd sender email addresses, typos, or poor grammar, others will be more difficult because scammers are always improving.

Even though the brand icon may be perfect, remember that companies will not ask in an email for Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, bank account numbers or other personal information. If you receive a notification about problem with your order, call the company directly. Finally, experts suggest that if you get an email from a major brand or retailer asking you to take a survey in exchange for a gift card, it is a scam and it is best to ignore it.

GREAT! ARE THERE ANY OTHER TIPS YOU HAVE FOR US TODAY?

Yes. Always use a credit card when shopping online, because you will be better protected against fraud, and you will not be liable for those charges. If you use a debit card, you are putting the balance in your bank account at risk.

Never store your card information on websites. And remember that you have to be vigilant not just during the shopping season, but all year. While you may catch a fraudulent charge on your card, you also need to keep track of your credit report. You will want to check your credit history in late December or in January just to be safe!

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