As the holiday shopping season ramps up, with Black Friday marking its zenith, shoppers are not just hunting for the best deals – they are also prime targets for cybercriminals. According to a study conducted by TransUnion last year, the average number of suspected digital fraud attempts on any given day between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday was 82% higher globally than during the rest of the year. This convergence of high consumer activity and heightened cyber threats calls for a proactive approach to safeguard precious personal information.
There’s a myriad of different information scammers want to get their hands on, ranging from email addresses, home addresses, account credentials, phone numbers, and, of course, credit card information. Using a variety of techniques, these criminals piece together the puzzle of a consumer’s identity by purchasing personal identifying information (PII) on the dark web, employing social engineering tactics to wrangle information, posing as retailers or financial institutions, and much more. Unfortunately, online fraud has become incredibly sophisticated.
For shoppers who want to bag the best bargains and protect themselves against the full spectrum of fraud, the following tips will help consumers safely transact online through the holiday shopping season and beyond.
Approach email and text correspondence with caution
During Black Friday, shoppers engage with various vendors, from giants like Amazon to smaller direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands. Each shopping platform requires a different security approach. For instance, with Amazon, it’s vital never to share payment details outside its platform. Amazon’s A-to-Z Guarantee offers customer protection, but scammers often lure customers off-site via email for fraudulent transactions. Always communicate through the platform itself and avoid email-based payment arrangements.
For D2C vendors, communication might seem more direct via email, but the same rule applies: never share credit card details or personal information over email. If issues arise, such as incorrect charges or shipping details, handle them through the brand’s official website and payment portal.
Cybercriminals often also use text messages, posing as marketplace or brand representatives, to extract personal information. These messages might include links for alleged refunds or requests for information. The best advice: never respond to these unsolicited texts either. Instead, check your account on the official platform for any legitimate notifications.
Mask your email, phone number, credit cards and debit cards
Creating shopper profiles using single-use masked email addresses and phone numbers can significantly enhance privacy. They are essentially placeholders for your real contact details, safeguarding them in the event of a data breach and rendering a cybercriminal ineffective in their attempts to take your information elsewhere and wreak financial havoc.
Masking is also a great strategy for keeping your information off the dark web and spammer lists. If you skirt using your real information while transacting with various retailers, the amount of fraudulent messages in your spam folder will also decrease.
In the same way masking your email address and phone number is impactful, using masked or virtual credit cards makes it impossible for scammers to wrangle your actual financial information. The way they work is exactly the same – masked card providers will create a temporary credit card number for you for each transaction you make online, which is completely disconnected from your actual bank details. These masked cards are also particularly useful against data breaches on retail sites, as your real card information remains undisclosed.
Adopt cross-device biometric protection
The additional layer of biometric authentication is being widely adopted across the cybersecurity landscape and for good reason – passwords are becoming increasingly vulnerable to sophisticated cybercrime. Therefore, a biometric-secured password manager and biometric-protected two-factor authentication (2FA) can significantly fortify your digital financial accounts and bolster your online shopping security.
Ahead of the hectic holiday shopping season, start by adding biometric 2FA to your most sensitive accounts, such as bank and credit card accounts. This ensures that even if your personal information is compromised, only you can access these accounts by way of either a fingerprint or a face scan recognition.
Shop with caution on emerging social media marketplaces
With the amount of time we spend on social media, it’s becoming increasingly popular to find items you love through various profiles and influencers. Platforms like TikTok Shop and Instagram Shopping have become incredibly popular for their convenience, despite the fact that they are highly susceptible to fraud.
The anonymity provided by virtual cards and masked emails is crucial here. With the rise of fake digital storefronts and scams on these platforms, keeping your personal and financial details anonymous on social platforms is imperative. You should also secure access to your social accounts with a biometric password and 2FA protection.
Keeping your money safe during the holidays
While the holiday shopping season offers a plethora of deals and convenience, it also opens up avenues for cyber threats. Scammers are chomping at the bit to catch consumers with their guards down over the next few months and it’s imperative that consumers take their cybersecurity into their own hands.
By following these simple steps, you can protect your personal and financial information, making your online shopping experience both enjoyable and secure. Remember, safety is the best gift you can give yourself this season.
(Guy Bauman is the co-founder and CMO of Ironvest.)
The post Beat The Scammers: How To Shop Smart And Safely This Black Friday appeared first on International Business Times.