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Beware of the Holiday Shopping Scams

Beware of the Holiday Shopping Scams

Black Friday and Christmas used to be a serious tradition in the United States, up until the rest of the world commerce really saw its potential to drive big sales during this time of the year.  These days, many Americans don’t even celebrate Christmas, as the demographics of the country have changed dramatically after years of uncontrolled illegal immigration.  Regardless, the corporate influence and “celebration” of these holidays has only grown stronger.  Sales and promotions are widespread.  Now, the sales have extended to the rest of the world, either because people shop online for sales in the U.S., or because the concept of this marketing celebration was copied worldwide.

There is money to be made and many retailers count on this season for big profits.  Consumers too can win big as many prices are reduced, and there are some genuine good offers.  But, mixed in with these promotions and commercials and newsletters promoting great deals are plenty of scams!  How can you be sure that the email or website you’re dealing with is legitmate?

The following are tips to stay safe from the online fraud experts of the Philippine PI team:

Be careful on social networks

It is quite common to see special promotions for fans of a brand through Facebook and Twitter. Many are even shared by our own so-called friends. Be cautious with any link because when clicked, some might download malware, infecting the computer, compromising your personal accounts and spreading the malicious link to your contacts. If you find an alleged promotion through social networks, confirm at the official website of the brand before clicking on an unknown link. Some media websites also offer some tips on avoiding scams.  Try going to a safe search engine like DuckDuckGo and typing in the company or store you’re looking for, to make sure you go to the official website.

Avoid buying in free Wi-Fi networks

Cybercriminals know that shoppers will be using their credit card or bank information online a lot during the holidays. On these occasions crooks use public Wi-Fi networks to intercept information sent through these which may include bank account number, credit card and passwords to email accounts. Make sure you are connected to a known and private Wi-Fi network, and avoid public. When possible, use browsers that will protect your privacy. If you´re using your smart phone or other  mobile device, be sure to turn off the Wi-Fi connection settings, as most smartphones try to connect when a free signal is detected. This will help you keep your information safe from criminal eyes.

Watch for the URL

Make sure that the URL of the stores where you are planning to shop starts with https://. The “s” at the end means that when accessing that particular web site, all web traffic between your web browser and the web site will be encrypted, protecting the data that is being entered, therefore making it secure for shoppers.  Check the URL to make sure you’re on the official website, not a fake one.

Use strong passwords

Some of the most recent hacking attacks have had nothing to do with fancy software that can access secret information. Actually, hackers have been exposing those who do not care for writing strong passwords.  About 66% of online users have passwords like “Password” or “123456”, and crooks will try to guess this.  Many computer programs can try thousands of random passwords in just seconds, and if you’re one of the people who has a weak password, yours will be the first to go.

Beware of phishing

Phishing is characterized by acquiring confidential information fraudulently using websites that look a lot like one of an official and reputable organization. To avoid falling in the trap, try not to enter financial information into pop-up windows or links you received from an email or from unknown or suspicious windows. Avoiding phishing is important at all times, no matter if you´re shopping or just having fun online.  Always check the domain and URL you are visiting. If you notice anything different between the original domain and the one you are accessing, it is likely a phishing site.

Check the Apps you download

You could be downloading a fake mobile application or following a scam promotion or coupon. Fraud can be difficult to detect in certain app stores and it may take a while for the administrators of the store to take it down. Keep your shopping simple during the Christmas season and try to avoid offers that request a download, or ask you to go to a strange or unknown website.

Look for trust seals

If you’re doing business online and choosing from websites that sell the same service, always go with the company and website that has privacy and trust seals, such as Truste, McAfee and the Better Business Bureau.  This is a sign of a real company that takes your privacy and security seriously, and only companies who have met the accreditation or seal requirements can display the seals.

C. Wright

© 2014 Philippine PI
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