Black Friday & Cyber Monday Tips for a Hacker-Proof Shopping Experience

Black Friday & Cyber Monday Tips for a Hacker-Proof Shopping Experience

Online shopping is a thriving and growing market.  According to Tech Crunch, over 79% of American consumers shop online, with Cyber Monday being one of the busiest shopping days of the year.  It’s been reported that an additional 74% of Americans plan to shop on either Black Friday or Cyber Monday.  With such a high number of Americans participating in holiday shopping, hacking attempts and credit card fraud risk are higher than ever.  To keep your information safe, consider these tips throughout the holiday season:

  1. Use a Credit Card Rather Than a Debit Card

Most banks will tell their customers that they are not liable for fraudulent charges.  However, using a credit card puts shoppers in a better position to dispute any unwelcomed charges that may come about from online shopping.  The difference is in the amount of time it takes to recover unauthorized transactions.  Permanent reversals on debit charges can take longer, sometimes up to thirty days depending on which bank you use.  When you use a credit card, it’s quicker for these charges to fall-off once disputed, or simply appear on your next statement. For example, if you pay your bills through your debit card and a large amount of money is compromised, and it can be more of a pain dealing with bounced checks and payments that you then become liable for.  Using a credit card rather than a debit card helps to better protect your finances during the holiday season both online and in-store.

  1. Beware of Unknown Websites

One of the biggest mistakes shoppers make is when searching for the lowest price online.  Sites that seem to have the lowest deals are often times from foreign countries, or fraudulent. It’s good to remember is that if a deal seems too good to be true, it likely is. One way to tell if a site is legitimate is to check the https:// at the beginning of the URL.  Most websites have a confirmed identity, so be aware of sites that may have extra hidden characters in their URL designed to look like the websites of major brands.  One way hackers are compromising shoppers is by creating pseudo-sites.  A hypothetical example may be www.bestbuy.com.  Hackers will create similar fraudulent sites like www.betsbuy.com, where vulnerable shoppers may miss typing errors and proceed to provide their card information.

  1. Keep Your Browser Up-To-Date

Keeping your browser up-to-date will do more than keep you from computer glitches while shopping.  Hackers have begun attacking add-ons and vulnerabilities in the web browser itself.  They have begun attacking the browser specifically due to the fact that most shoppers use the browser as their primary way of accessing the web.  Keeping your browser up-to-date helps ward off these hackers and helps to protect your computer from viruses and malware.

  1. Skip the Shopping & Savings Cards In-Store

Savings cards are marketed to shoppers as programs to help them save money.  However, many shoppers don’t understand that “frequent shopper” cards are used for the businesses benefit rather than the shopper.  Stores are saving, analyzing, and sharing information on what you buy, when you buy it, and predicting future sales.  The savings passed on to the shopper are far less than the amount of money these companies are making by selling the information to outside resources regarding your purchasing history and habits.  Specifically, Kroger and Ingles make over 200% more profit from the data that they sell than the savings that the consumer experiences.  The best way to protect oneself from the sharing of personal information is to limit the number of programs you participate in- especially during the holidays.

  1. Be Cautious of Unknown Emails

Be aware during these high-shopping times of fraudulent emails in your inbox. Specifically, during this time, phishing attempts are heightened.  Popular phishing attempts come from emails that appear to be a bank the shopper may be associated with.  Typically, these emails will prompt the shopper to click the link and enter their login and password into the fake site in which the hackers have control.  The easiest way to prevent these phishing scams is to simply not click any unknown links and type the URL of the site you want to visit directly into the web browser.

Guest Author:

Gates Marshall, Director, Cyber Security Services, CompliancePoint

As the Director of Cyber Security Services, Gates has many years of experience in information security consulting with a focus on the application of technical security controls. He has additional expertise in payment application assessments, FISMA, incident response, and forensics.  With over 15 years of experience in the information security industry, Gates has obtained over 20 information technology, security, and assurance certifications or accreditations and uses these skills to help CompliancePoint’s clients obtain, measure, and maintain compliance and security.