Wasn’t it just summer? We’re not sure how it’s already the holiday season again, but here we are! In the coming weeks, you’re going to be inundated with “best sale ever!” ads and early Black Friday sales. While there are plenty of legitimate good deals out there, the holiday season is also a prime opportunity for scammers to strike.
Whether or not you’re an avid Black Friday/Cyber Monday shopper, online shopping safety is something we should all be aware of. We’ve done some research on how scammers are targeting shoppers this year, and how you can avoid fraud, identity theft, and more. Read on for the best 2022 online shopping safety tips.
Look for Customer Support
One the best ways to vet whether a website is legit or not is to look for clearly defined customer support options, including a US address or phone number. If you still can’t quite tell whether a site is a legit business, check their social media profiles or Google reviews.
Shop Familiar Websites
Scammers will often set up fake online stores to obtain your data and funds for goods that don’t even exist. Try to stick to familiar or official brand websites as opposed to secondary sellers.
Look for the Lock
Any time you’re sending information over a website, make sure that that website is secure. Look for “https://” before the url, and the little lock icon next to the address bar. This means the site is using Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocol and your data is encrypted before it gets sent to a server. Avoid giving out personal information over http-only connections.
If you’re shopping with a retailer that’s new to you, or an individual seller on marketplaces like Etsy, read a few reviews before you buy to ensure the seller is reputable. Many sites like Ebay even give sellers a score based on customer satisfaction, order fulfillment and reliability.
Be Extra Vigilant With Email Offers
If you don’t recognize it, don’t even open it. Emails are the #1 way scammers work online. Create good spam filters and block/report strange emails if you receive them. NEVER click on an unfamiliar link in an email or a text. Your data could be stolen in just one click.
Avoid Public Wi-Fi
Being on the go during the holiday season means you might be tempted to make a quick purchase or check your bank account from your phone while you’re out and about. If you’re using a public Wi-Fi network, this always carries a risk. If you must access or send financial information on your phone, use your 5G network or cellular data instead because that info is encrypted.
Think Before You Click
Scammers love to offer quick click links that people won’t even think twice about opening, and they can get data off of just one click. Always check the links you’re clicking on emails, texts and websites. Look at the url for strange characters or weird spellings. If something seems off, don’t click.
Use Credit Cards
This is a good online tip in general. Try not to make purchases with your debit card. Debit cards link directly to your bank account, and it’s much harder to get that money back if it gets stolen. Credit cards generally offer more fraud protection. If you really want to shop safely, use virtual credit cards with single-use numbers.
Avoid Cryptocurrency Scams
Crypto is the new big thing, but with that comes an increased risk of fraud. If a seller is asking you to pay in Cryptocurrency or use a crypto app, that’s a major red flag. Unless you’re a crypto genius, shop with real money.
Beware of Redirects
Any time you’re being asked to leave a certain area of a website or connect to an outside party to purchase, be sure you trust where you’re going. Sites that use Paypal often require outside connection to complete a purchase, but if you haven’t heard of the site you’re being taken to, use caution.
Be Wary of Pay Later or Instant Loan Offers
It can be tempting to make a purchase if offered a “pay later” option. Some sites may even offer you a quick, instant approval loan to buy now and pay later. Unless you know that the payment program you’re being offered is legit, DO NOT use it. Paypal Pay in Four, Klarna and Afterpay are all reputable and safe options.
Supply Chain Shortage Scams
One unique way scammers are working in 2022 is by taking advantage of supply chain shortages. The need for hard-to-find items creates an opportunity for them to “sell” those items at an exorbitant rate, or advertise that they’ll sell you the items for less. If you know the item you’re looking for is in short supply, be wary of any deals you might come across.
Never Give Too Much Info
Besides shipping information, billing information and payment information, a website shouldn’t need much more personal info from you. If you’re being asked to give unreasonable information like your social security number, STOP. Never give your SSN out to an online store.
Use Password Managers
Don’t worry, nobody expects you to remember those 12 random symbols, letters and numbers. If you haven’t used a password manager before, now is the time. Password security has never been more important. Use a free password generator to come up with strong passwords, and store them in a safe password vault for easy access.
The Too Good to Be True Rule
Nobody is actually going to sell and brand new TV for $1. If a deal seems way too good to be true, it probably is. Though Black Friday and Cyber Monday see a lot of genuinely great deals, some might just be a clever way to rip you off.
Always remember no deal is worth losing your money or identity over. Use good judgement and stay vigilant and safe this holiday season!