One of the many disturbing storylines to come out of the recent U.S. election is the seeming ease with which hackers are able to break into the most secure government websites and servers. With Cyber Monday coming up on November 28, it’s a good time to think about how safely you shop online, and perhaps add some new layers of cyber security in your own life.
What is Cyber Monday?
First off, if you’ve managed to somehow survive the last decade or so without an internet connection, you may have missed out on the online alternative to the infamous Black Friday sales in the U.S. that take place the day after Thanksgiving. Just over a decade ago, online retailers decided to offer customers a way to get great deals from the comfort of their homes, rather than experiencing those long lineups and crazy scenes of doors literally crashing down.
More recently, the phenomenon has crossed the border into Canada with many retailers offering online deals of their own. Sites such as Red Flag Deals and Bargain Moose compile lists of some of the deals available, but in 2016 it’s a safe bet than any retailer with an online presence will have a good selection of deals.
A lot of cyber security relies on some good old-fashioned common sense: don’t use obvious passwords, only shop on legitimate, trusted websites, and if it seems to good to be true – even for Cyber Monday – it may not be. Cyber safety starts with the devices from which you’ll be using to shop. Install anti-virus software on your devices, install all necessary software updates and regularly back them up in case data is lost.
Here are some ways to make sure you can take advantage of the online deals, while staying cyber-safe:
Also read: The best things to buy in December
Be Password Protected
Do you have any passwords that are as easy to hack as 1-2-3-4, your dog’s name or your kid’s birthday? Change them, immediately. With so many of us sharing so much on social media, details that we think only close friends and family might know can be surprisingly well-known. The best passwords are a cryptic missing of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols such as @, #, $, and %.
You should also have a different password for every different account you set up. Yes, it’s hard to keep track of them all, but that’s easier than the hassle of trying to get your money back after you have been scammed. There are trusted sites such as LastPass that help generate and safely store secure passwords for you.
Be Careful Where and How You Shop
Just like banking, online shopping should only be done on a device you own, using a network you trust. In other words, don’t spend the afternoon shopping for all your holiday gifts using the free public Wi-Fi at your local coffee shop.
Any online purchases you make should be only on sites with URLs that begin with HTTPS (rather than just HTTP). The extra “S” means the site is secure.
Related read: Is online credit card use still safe?
Whenever possible, use a credit card to make online purchases instead of using money transfers from your bank or Paypal account. That way, if there is a fraudulent charge, the credit card company can reimburse you – provided you took security precautions.
Finally, monitor your bank and credit card statements for any unexpected or erroneous charges.
Don’t Fall Victim to Phishing Expeditions
Be very careful when following links in emails or that lead you from one site to another. They could take you to a site that looks exactly like one for a trusted retailer, but is really just a front to steal your information.
If you’re not sure, call the company directly and speak to someone who can confirm if the message or site is legitimate or not.
With all that in mind, happy shopping and spend wisely!
Will you be hitting the malls on Black Friday or staying behind a computer screen on Cyber Monday? Don’t forget to check out our list for the best credit cards for shopping!