With Black Friday and Cyber Monday around the corner, plenty of shoppers are looking forward to getting the best deals. Unfortunately, each year, hackers use this opportunity to prey on vulnerable data from people as they complete their online transactions.
Criminals have defrauded online shoppers in Britain of £2.5m over the Black Friday and Cyber Monday period in 2020. This guide takes you through some safety pointers to keep in mind next time you are searching for products online.
Don’t shop using public WiFi
Although browsing the internet connected to your coffee shop’s WiFi network seems cosy and safe, it puts you at risk of having your data stolen. Public WiFi networks are especially vulnerable to hackers, who are able to steal all sorts of personal data including your search history and passwords.
By shopping online on a public WiFi network, you are not only giving away your card details but also your name and address. This sort of browsing is far safer when done at home, using a secure internet connection.
Another solution could be to consider using a VPN when shopping online using public WiFi. VPN (virtual private network) is a product that encrypts the connection between your device and the VPN’s server. This makes it difficult for hackers to intercept your credit card information when you are using public WiFi networks.
Update your devices
You can greatly reduce your chances of getting your computer and phone infected by malware by simply making sure they are using the most up-to-date operating systems.
This is because phone and computer companies are always patching any weak spots they find before hackers can exploit them. By staying on top of your software updates, you stand the best chance of protecting your data.
Check for a padlock icon in the URL
Online shops that display a little padlock symbol in the URL bar are more likely to be safe. This lock represents an SSL (secure sockets layer), which is a good sign. However, some malicious websites try to copy this lock icon to trick people, so check that it is in the usual place (you can compare it with a website you already know is safe).
Another thing to look out for is that the URL starts with “https” and not “http”. The final ‘s’ stands for ‘secure’. This is another good sign that your website is as safe as can be.
Stick to trusted retailers
Your safest bet is to stick with stores you have already had a good experience with. You can also have a greater degree of trust in larger, more famous shops with a reputation for legitimacy.
However, if you have spotted a deal you really want to go for on a smaller retailer that you might not be so sure about, you should:
- Check the reviews (and try and verify whether these are real, by checking their reviews on independent websites such as Trustpilot).
- Check their social media following. As long as their follower count is roughly consistent with the number of likes they have, this is a good sign that they are a real store.
- Check that the store has contact details and a physical address, which would be a good sign.
Don’t give out too much information
When searching for products, some stores might ask you for information before you have even reached the checkout. Be careful about websites wanting to know too much information too soon. If you suspect an online retailer of this, be sure to double check their reviews, or stay on the safe side and look for the same product elsewhere.