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Big sales attracts crowds, and these crowds (whether at a mall or while doing some online shopping) attract scammers. You need to take extra care when shopping online over the Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend. There will be some bad people out there keen to relieve you of more money than you’ll save on a fridge or the new gaming consoles.

But while online shopping helps you skip the crowds at the mall, it can be a cybersecurity minefield. With the attack of Black Friday scams about to hit our inboxes, how do we know if we are being scammed and how can we stop it happening?

In the rush to go buy our presents sorted, it’s all too easy to miss a warning sign, or get complacent about online security. The following precautions apply throughout the year, but it’s great to remind ourselves of them every time the holiday season comes around.

Just remember: Tis the season for scammers and hackers.

Only use secure sites

Always check that a site is safe and secure before entering any personal information.

Hover your mouse over the url and see if the website is real and valid by looking for the padlock symbol in the address bar and seeing that the url starts with https. The ‘S’ indicates the web address has been encrypted and secured with an SSL certificate. Without HTTPS, any data passed on the site is insecure and could be intercepted by criminal third parties.

Use a credit card for shopping online

Credit cards offer an additional layer of protection when shopping online. If fraudulent payments have been made there is a good chance your bank will reimburse you quickly. With debit cards this can be more difficult. Make use of temporary credit cards where possible. Banks are offering as an option on their mobile banking apps.

Beware of phishing emails

Emails are the easiest way for the bad guys to get access to your identity or credit card information if they can get you to click on a link in that email. If you do get a tempting offer, rather go directly to the store’s website by typing it into your browser. Hackers will often copy a shop’s sale or discount email and add a fake link into it asking for your personal information.

Avoid deals that are too good to be true

Bad guys know that we will be scouring the web around black Friday and Cyber Monday for good deals and they take advantage of this by slipping in lots of fake and dodgy offers.

Be wary of any emails, pop-ups, or posts on social media promising rock bottom prices.

Clicking on these fake or dodgy links could bring you straight to a phishing site or you may end up downloading malware onto your device.

Diversify your password

I’m sure we have all been guilty of using the same password across all of our platforms at some stage. This is, however, a terrible idea because if one of your passwords is exposed, chances are it will be exposed for all of your apps and devices. It is always advisable to use unique passwords for your various accounts (especially critical accounts like banking) so that in the event of being phished, your other accounts would not be exposed.

Watch out for Social media scams

Facebook and Twitter seem to be the sites favoured by bad guys for malicious posts and online scams. They might ask you to share and like their posts so that they are boosted to the top of the newsfeed and reach even more people. We tend to be more trusting on social media and its often more difficult to know if a link is dodgy or not than on an email.

Safe WiFi

When shopping online, make sure you’re using a private Wi-Fi connection or your smartphone’s cellular network to browse the internet. Public Wi- Fi networks are notoriously insecure and could open you up to malware or hacking.

Ensure all your software is up to date

Ensure all of your security software is up to date before doing any online shopping and searching for the hottest deals. Older and outdated systems could give the bad guys access to your computer or phone. Anti-virus software will help detect threats on your devices and block unauthorised users from gaining access.

Monitor bank statements for fraudulent activities

Keep a close eye on your bank statements to ensure there is no unusual activity on any of your accounts. Criminals know that during Black Friday a there will be lots of online activity, so they hope that any unusual debits from your account will go undetected.

Typically, these bad guys will make a few small debit amounts then go in for a larger amount which could clean out your bank account.

Avoid pop ups and ads

Emails are not the only way for cybercriminals to lure you. Pop-ups and advertisements can be used for spreading malware and viruses. Clicking on these malicious ads could link you straight to a scam site, or you may end up downloading malware on your device.

As it is hard to differentiate a fair deal and a fake, it is best to go directly to the brand’s website to determine if the deal is real.

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