The Department of Homeland Security issued a rare public warning urging on-line shoppers to use a great deal of vigilance this holiday season!
Black Friday's on-line sales was at a record high of about 4.1 billion dollars spent, I'm sure the bad guys have taken notice of this, and Cyber Monday is right around the corner too. Cyber crime always increases during the holiday season but there has been an "alarmingly noticeable increase" of reported incidents compared to last year.
Here are some things you can do to protect yourself from becoming a victim of cyber crime.
First of all it's not a bad idea to update your Antivirus software & run a malware scan of your Operating System drive before doing any holiday shopping. Then make sure your AV is kept up to date while doing your on-line shopping.
If you have access to a Virtual Private Network (VPN) definitely use it whenever you do any on-line banking or shopping regardless of the time of year.
When holiday shopping on-line make sure you don't end up on a bogus site that resembles the real thing. Fake websites are on the rise this year. Apple, Amazon, and Target are currently the most impersonated. Other big names in the same situation are Tiffany, Sony, Samsung, and Microsoft.
Always look for the secure "HTTPS" URL header with the shopping site's Domain name. Almost all legitimate on-line retailers use these secure encryption protocols that protects your personal data that's being sent from your browser.
Also look for Domain names for popular brands that have spelling errors or mistakes, even if using the HTTPS protocols or not (HTTP) these are not genuine.
Consider using a major credit card for payment such as Visa or MasterCard, etc... instead of a bank debit card. If using a debit card your savings or checking account could be drained and, unless the criminals are actually caught, there's nothing much can be done about that.
Most major credit card company's offer some form of reimbursement if it's discovered that you were a victim of scamming. Plus the big card company's have methods to detect & react to possible fraudulent use of your card number. Still check your card's account often for any unauthorized purchases and contact the card issuer right away if you suspect something is amiss.
Another option would be to use PayPal or a similar secure web based payment service if the retailer accepts these types of payment methods.
Email is also being used for phishing attempts, malware using attachments as an attack vector or to re-direct you to a malicious drive-by download site. Avoid opening any links or attachments that come from any unsolicited entity. Especially if it comes from a company or charity you never heard of or never done business with.
Be very wary of so-called free giveaways, discounts or gift cards delivered to your in-box this holiday season. When in doubt, just delete them.
Social media sites are also being targeted with possible malicious/phishing links offering such holiday themed giveaways, gift cards or discounts. So be wary of any links you click on while visiting social media sites as well.
A little common sense can go a long way to keep you safe too. "If you see a bargain that seems too good to be true it probably is!"
Best wishes, Ritchie...