7 Cybersecurity Tips for Holiday Shopping Online

'Tis the season to be wary! The last two years have ushered in an unprecedented rise in e-commerce sales - and cybercriminals have taken notice. If history is any indication, this holiday season will likely feature at least one retail data breach. Increased online shopping, and a high volume of transactions, attract cybercriminals who are on the prowl for sensitive user information. And they aren't just hacking individuals. Businesses are also vulnerable and, like consumers, must keep a vigilant eye over their data.

Here Are Seven Ways to Strengthen Your Cybersecurity for Holiday Shopping Online:

1. Check credit and debit card statements routinely.

A recent report from the Federal Trade Commission found that there were 2.1 million consumer complaints filed in 2020. Consumers reported losing $3.3 billion to imposter scams disguised as lotteries, sweepstakes, giveaways, etc. Of this $3.3 billion, $246 million stemmed from online shopping. Since the trend for consumer losses is going up - in 2019 losses totaled $1.8 billion - it's imperative to be extra vigilant in tracking purchase history.

2. Protect credit and debit card numbers from “wandering eyes.”

One way to do so is through a third-party payment vendor that protects the primary funding source. Common vendors include Venmo, Google Wallet, Paypal, and Amazon Payments. In the event that these services are compromised, only the transaction will be affected. The credit and debit cards, or account info, remains protected. Set up "push" rather than "pull" payments. When paying for a service, the linked funding source will "push" a payment to a vendor, rather than having the vendor "pull" funds from the account. This gives you greater control when transferring funds, and alerts you to any potentially fraudulent activity.

3. Be cautious of your inbox.

It's a particularly busy time of the year for your inbox! Between holiday messages, sales, end-of-year newsletters, etc. cybercriminals use volume to their advantage. Remain wary of emails with pictures in attached files, as they may contain malware. Only open attachments from known senders and scan for viruses if possible. And remember, never click on unknown links or respond to unsolicited emails.  

4. Avoid filling out e-mail message forms that ask for personal information.

Unless you know your sender, and have appropriate context around PII requests, don't fill out email-based forms. Your usernames, passwords, and sensitive consumer data are high value items on the dark web. Double check the state of your usernames by visiting HaveIBeenPwned.com.

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5. Beware of SMS phishing, even from brands you think you're subscribed to - they could be fraudulent.

Users aren't the only ones suffering from consumer fraud. A recent Juniper Research report on online payment scams found that e-commerce retailers are expected to lose $20 billion in 2021, due to fraudulent activity. This represents an 18% increase over 2020, and the average value of a fraudulent purchase has increased 69%. What are some of the factors driving this change? Growing rates of online shopping, identity theft, chargeback fraud, account takeovers, and brand impersonation.  

6. When logging on, use a host's official website, rather than potentially compromised e-mail links. 

If you receive an e-mail from your bank, credit card issuer, or other company you deal with frequently, cross-check that their contact information is legitimate. Verify any requests for personal information by contacting them through the information on their official website. If you are requested to act quickly, or there is an emergency, it may be a scam. Fraudsters rely on knee-jerk reactions, by creating a sense of urgency.

7. Remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Don't want to leave your security to chance? Our experts can help. Reach out for a free consultation today - and start the holiday season off right!

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