How to ward off cyber criminals as you shop online this festive season

Online criminal adopt various strategies when staging attacks. These include intercepting payments, stealing credit card data and phishing for sensitive information.

The festive season is here with us again! And this means shopping online goes up exponentially.

As you go about shopping on e-commerce platforms, you ought to be aware of the cyber-criminals on the prowl looking for an opportune moment to strike.

According to Kaspersky, a global cybersecurity and digital privacy company, there has been a sharp rise in attacks in 2022, with 20 million strikes launched between January and October.

“The shopping event of the year commonly known as Black Friday is a hot time not only for sellers and their buyers but also for scammers who want to steal as much money as possible from hurried customers,” says Olga Svistunova, a security expert at Kaspersky, noting that cyber-criminals are now exploiting buy-now-pay-later service to convince customers to make their orders.

“The new scheme exploiting buy-now-pay-later services only proves that cyber-criminals do not stop in their desire to attack victims and come up with new methods to do so. On ordinary days the customer can easily understand: if the product is too cheap, it’s most likely a scam, but during the Black Friday sales period this fact isn’t so clear,” she said.

Shoppers, she added, let their guard down during such shopping craze, rendering themselves an easy prey for cyber-criminals.

“That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to which site you buy from, be careful with unfamiliar companies and use a reliable security solution,” says Svistunova.

Online criminal adopt various strategies when staging attacks. These include intercepting payments, stealing credit card data and phishing for sensitive information.

Cybercriminals may use malicious web pages and fake mobile apps related to holiday shopping sales often leveraging popularity of e-commerce platforms. This way, they are able to win the confidence of the shoppers before they strike them where it hurts.

Malicious apps contain adware and ad-clickers, or malware that steals personal information or locks the device until the ransom is paid. Such apps may persuade you to log in using your Facebook or Gmail credentials in a bid to harvest personal information.

Malicious web pages often hide in plain sight, using brand names in malicious subdomains or commonly misspelt versions of those names to fool you into visiting pages that phish your information. Therefore, it is crucial to pay attention to detail while shopping online and be aware of your surroundings.

Below are the steps you can take to avoid being hit as you conduct your festive online shopping.

When the deal is too good think twice

During the festive season, there are endless flow of discounts, which is a good thing. Most of these offers are from real retailers seeking to reward customers or woo potential buyers. However, there are fake ones too looking to take advantage of the moment. Always remember that if an offer looks too good to be true, then it probably is.

Free Wi-Fi is home to fraudsters

Avoid as much as possible using free public Wi-Fi., which is a home to hordes of cyber criminals. A public Wi-FI network is vulnerable to attacks mainly because several people access the network at the same time on the same spot.

So if your device’s security is not sufficiently tight, the prospects of your data being breached are high. You are therefore advised to avoid public Wi-Fi if your security is not that tight.

Keep off suspicions apps like plague

Say no to strange apps. Scammers use mobile apps (and games) to hide malware that steals your personal information. Do not download apps unless they are from a reputable source.

Shop with trusted retailers

As you make your order online this festive season, ensure that you shop with reputable retailers. Avoid visiting strange online sites that you have little or no information about. It is also advisable to bookmark your favourite sites to get there quickly. Completely avoid typing the name of the shopping site in the URL bar because you might end up on a counterfeit site

Credit Cards

You would do well to  never use debit card when conducting online shopping. In case of fraud or a data breach, debit cards do not have the same level of consumer protections as credit cards do. Credit cards don’t give a seller direct access to the cash in your bank account – debit cards do. If you rely on your debit card, you could end up without that money for an extended period in the event of fraud.

Read your bank statements between the lines

Always ensure that you are careful when looking at your bank statements. This way you will be able to figure out suspicious transactions and flag them accordingly.

Use strong passwords

A strong password is one that’s easy for you to remember but difficult for others to guess.
Having strong and unique passwords is key to protecting yourself online.
To secure your account, you should use a password manager. It will generate and remember different, complex passwords for each of your accounts. It will also protect you from logging into a fake site masquerading as a legitimate one.
You can also use multi-factor authentication for every site that offers it to further protect your accounts.


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