How to avoid Fraud and Scams and shop online securely | Cybersecurity

By Julia Lewis • November 22, 2022

Bundling up on Black Friday to shop for great deals on TVs, iPods, and holiday gifts while still full of Turkey and stuffing is a thing of the past. While our bellies have remained stuffed, our Black Fridays have changed considerably over the years. The advent of online shopping has made it easier than ever to score great deals and complete your holiday gift list from the comfort of your own home.

But with convenience comes new cybersecurity risks including fraud, scams, and identity theft. Keep your holidays filled with cheer by using the following tips to improve your cybersecurity and protect yourself while online shopping this season.

8 Simple Ways to Stay Safe While Shopping Online

  • Keep your data safe online by shopping with reputable retailers.

Just as you would use caution when shopping in person, only shop with established, reputable retailers online. Hackers may create fake websites imitating popular merchants to access your information. These tips from the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency can help you verify websites prior to entering any personal data.

  • Avoid scams by using extra caution when using social media “marketplaces”.

Never send money to people you do not know or provide personal or financial information. Verify the legitimacy of the seller and only make purchases from established reputable websites.

  • Protect your bank account by paying with a credit card or payment service.

Put away your debit cards this holiday season and use credit cards or a payment gateway such as Google Pay, PayPal, or Apple Pay to transmit payment. In the event your data is compromised, credit cards often limit consumers’ liability for fraudulent charges. Debit cards pull directly from your bank account. Using a payment gateway will further protect your credit card details as that information is not transmitted to the merchant in the first place.

  • Prevent online shopping fraud by limiting the personal data you provide.

Limit access for shopping apps on mobile devices and use caution when manually providing information online. Providing details outside of your billing information and shipping address is usually unnecessary and may indicate a fraud attempt. Never provide more information than required and think twice when sharing any personal details. Additionally, review websites’ privacy policies to ensure you are aware of how any data you provide may be used. These privacy policy tips can help you understand how to best protect your privacy.

  • Stop fraud in its tracks by monitoring your financial activity.

Fraud and theft are often heightened during the holiday season. Monitor your financial statements closely and verify that all posted transactions are legitimate. Report any discrepancies immediately. Many financial institutions will offer you the ability to set up account alerts to notify you of potentially fraudulent purchases, transactions over certain dollar thresholds, or online purchases. Utilize these services to make it easier to closely monitor your accounts.

  • Outsmart hackers’ fake ads by going directly to the site.

Hackers often create fake advertisements to lull consumers into clicking the link and making a purchase on their fake website. Never click an advertisement. Go directly to the retailer’s website and purchase from there.

  • Stay secure by shopping online from home.

Public Wi-Fi networks and computers are significantly less secure than private, home networks. Never enter your personal information or make purchases while using a public network.

  • The easiest way to stay safe online: stay vigilant.

Shockingly low prices on electronics, emailed offers of free gift cards, or an exceptionally enticing offer is usually a scam attack. Anything that seems too good to be true usually is. Be vigilant and think twice before clicking any links.

In addition to taking steps to protect your cybersecurity specifically while shopping online, it is important to remain cautious in all facets of your online activity. Check out our September cybersecurity blog and our Online Safety for All article for important tips.

  • Use caution when clicking links in your emails.

Review these reminders for vetting emails, and never click links in an unsolicited email.

  • Do not fall victim to phone scams.

Receiving an urgent call that your grandchild is in jail and needs money for bail or that your taxes are significantly in arrears is frightening and can scare you into immediate action. These are common social engineering tactics to obtain your financial information or receive a direct payment from you. Verify any calls of this nature by contacting a trusted family member or calling companies directly.

  • Use good password hygiene.

Set up your accounts with complex, unique passwords that are at least 16 digits in length, with capital letters, numbers, and symbols. Use password management software to keep them organized. Always turn on multi-factor authentication whenever possible.

Check back next month for a full blog post on how to respond to a potential cyberattack. In the interim, if you do believe you have been the victim of a cyberattack, take the following steps to mitigate risk wherever possible.

  • Contact your financial institutions (including your financial advisor, banks, credit card companies, and retirement providers) to have your accounts frozen.
  • Obtain a copy of your credit report to monitor for any new, potentially fraudulent accounts. Have the credit reporting companies place a fraud alert on your file.
  • Visit gov/cybersecurity for a comprehensive list of steps to follow.

As always, Berkshire Money Management is here to support our clients in all aspects of their lives. If you have any questions or need assistance with your cybersecurity this holiday season, contact your advisor!

Julia Lewis is a Compliance Professional at Berkshire Money Management.

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