It’s that time of the year again when we’re shopping for Christmas presents and since COVID, we’re much more likely to be doing this online. And there’s not only Christmas shopping – Black Friday is coming up on the 25th November and Cyber Monday is on the 28th. So how can we snap up the bargains without losing any money to scammers or giving all of our personal data to the wrong places?
According to Scamwatch, Australians have lost close to $6.6 million to online shopping scams in 2022 so far – and the busiest period of online shopping is just starting. Experts urge that at this time, it’s important to stay grounded and be aware of potential scams and ongoing financial damage.
Cyber security expert at Avast, Stephen Kho, warns “With shopping sales fast approaching, cybercriminals are looking for more ways to get in on the action and take advantage of someone who is simply excited about finding a bargain. This excitement can often cloud their ability to do the appropriate research to determine whether or not the sale is legitimate, which is why we, unfortunately, see so many people fall victim to scams and suffer some kind of financial loss.”
To help us survive this holiday season, Stephen has shared his top tips to help us have a safer online shopping experience this holiday sales season. He points out that our habits have changed following COVID and we’re much more inclined to do our shopping online. Research from the 2022 Australia Post eCommerce Industry report found an astounding 73.1% more purchases were made online in 2021 compared to 2019, demonstrating a strong change in shopper behavior.
Stephen adds, “This growing consumer reliance on the internet for everything from the weekly groceries, luxury goods, and even a new car, combined with the allure of a bargain, has the potential to lead unassuming shoppers down a dangerous path if they don’t remain vigilant and aware of the risks that naturally come with shopping online.”
He said it’s often an enticing bargain that becomes the perfect trap for us to fall into the palm of a scammer. An online scam will often trick the victim by enticing them with an offer for a product that looks too good to be true – and yes, it is actually too good to be true.
Whether it comes in the form of an email or SMS phishing scam offering a once-in-a-lifetime-deal, or fake shopping websites, cybercriminals are becoming savvier in their ways, leaving us suffering all-time high financial losses from scams, and not receiving the products we had paid for.
To help Australians have a safe online shopping experience this holiday sales season, Stephen Kho shares his top tips:
- Watch out for fake apps and always shop with trusted sellers – Only download apps from official app stores such as the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store. When it comes to websites, always type the URL into the address bar so you know you are on the official page. Almost all official sites will use ‘https’ to ensure an encrypted connection between the retailer and consumer. This way, you can ensure full confidence before clicking ‘pay’. If you come across a new shop, do a quick search to see if other shoppers left reviews on its social media pages or review portals.
- Look out for phishing scams – Be on high alert for suspicious emails and text messages that may promise an attractive deal but contain dangerous links. Never click on links inside an email or a text, as they could lead to a phishing scam. Instead, if you see something in an email or text that is enticing, follow the earlier advice and type the URL into a web browser yourself. If you do happen to click on a faulty link, do not enter any information or click any further links, and exit the tab immediately.
- Never store your payment info – After completing a purchase online, you will often be prompted to create an account and store your payment info with the seller. We strongly suggest you deny these requests, particularly during holiday shopping. You should be keeping the majority of your personal data off the internet as much as possible.
- Have a layer of protection in place, between your credit card and potential scammers – Third-party payment services such as PayPal, Apple Pay, and Google Pay can give you an extra layer of protection if you want a good first defense against a scam. These virtual payment services can also be very handy on mobile sites. However, remember to only shop from your home or cell network, never on public Wi-Fi so you can protect your sensitive information, like passwords, from being stolen.
- Stay anonymous – When you use a VPN such as the one in Avast One, you cruise the cyber highway in a rental car with tinted windows. It’s an encrypted connection that hides your IP address and keeps predators from seeing any personal data about you, which prevents them from profiling you. Your login credentials, banking details, and identity stay protected. But make sure you select your preferred country in the VPN application, so the website displays the currency you want to use.
- Consider the cost – Before you hit checkout, open a new tab, and look up that same item in other stores to see if the price is similar. If it is a brand you are unfamiliar with, look up comparable products in the market to see if prices are consistent. If your item is drastically lower than the other products available, there is probably a good reason why. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Anyone can be lured into a scam by an exciting bargain but when shopping this season, if you’re wary of the risks and always question before you buy, you should be fine.
About Avast: Avast is a Gen brand which works in digital security and privacy. Avast has products which can protect people from threats on the internet and the evolving IoT threat landscape. For more info, visit here.
For more from Women Love Tech on cyber security, visit here.