By Shira Landau, Editor-in-Chief, CyberTalk.org
Excited about stocking up on everyday home essentials, epic electronics or must-have fitness gear? This November 27th, Cyber Monday will be the season’s second-major shopping event, second-only to Black Friday, with mega-sales and deep discounts that are accessible from the comfort of your couch.
Founded by the National Retail Federation in 2005, Cyber Monday was originally intended to promote online-only deals, in an effort to reduce in-store Black Friday foot-traffic. However, due to an uptick in e-commerce, both commercial holidays are now intertwined. Whether you shop on Black Friday, Cyber Monday or both, it pays to be a cyber savvy consumer.
In 2022, nearly 20% of U.S. online retail transactions that occurred between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday were fraudulent. Americans lost more than $337 million dollars, according to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Cyber awareness and vigilance pays – Obviously, nothing beats spending the holiday season on-hold with your bank’s fraud department (just kidding).
6 Cyber Monday fraud prevention tips
This season, proactively prevent fraud.
1. Stay savvy when it comes to scams. Take a moment to review the latest holiday scam tactics. For instance, some scammers may set up fake online stores and send you emails advertising slashed prices on popular goods. Top Cyber Monday scams include those related to fake websites, gift cards, multi-factor authentication phishing, and fake charities.
2. Shop from a secure connection. Ensure that your computer or phone is protected by antivirus software. Otherwise, the risk of accidentally downloading malware increases. Avoid making purchases from cafes or other public spaces, as cyber schemers could intercept public Wi-Fi communications or ‘shoulder surf.’
3. Only shop on secure sites. Regardless of whether you’re browsing sites belonging to well-known retailers or smaller vendors, verify that the web page you’re visiting is legitimate. Here’s how: When visiting any website, look for the little lock icon in the top left corner of your browser bar. Also, be sure that you see HTTPS in the browser bar.
While there is no single solution that can help everyone easily distinguish fraudulent websites from legitimate ones, and cyber criminals can imitate both the lock icon and HTTPS, other means of site verification include checking for domain misspellings, and accessing sites by searching for them on Google, rather than by clicking on links embedded within emails.
4. Strive for strong passwords. If you create accounts with retailers to streamline and simplify the shopping process, be sure to protect the account with a strong password. Cyber criminals may employ tactics like password spraying to steal credit card numbers, but a strong password can help protect you from this type of cyber threat.
5. Consider credit over debt. If concerned about online retail security, consider making purchases with a credit card rather than a debt card. The advantage of using a credit card is that real money never leaves your bank account. In addition, credit card fraud may be easier to resolve than debt card fraud, for which you could be on the hook for a larger portion of the stolen funds.
6. Post-holiday shopping fraud review. After you’ve completed your shopping for the season, take a few minutes to review your bank and credit card transactions. Glance at your transactions daily or every few days. Ensure that amounts are correct. Look for fraudulent transactions. Should you identify any unknown purchases or obvious fraud incidents, contact your card service provider as soon as possible.
If you’re concerned about the legitimacy of a site, an advertisement, otherwise suspect malicious intent, you might want to pass on that bargain and instead tell yourself that you’ll look forward to future buying opportunities. It beats contending with bureaucracy and bank fraud.
Lastly, prior to starting your Cyber Monday shopping, take a few minutes to ensure that your web browser, antivirus and operating systems are up-to-date.