As online transactions explode over the next few weeks, cyber criminals will do their best to try to get your credit card and personal data. Here are three ways that hackers try to trick you into parting you with data, and what you can do about it.
1. Phishing scams. Phishing techniques usually come in the form of spam emails advertising special sales and phony gift cards. The most recent example was a massive email scam purporting to be from Amazon. But more sophisticated con artists will set up realistic-looking online shops. To put it mildly, if one of these merchants receives your payment information, you will get more than you bargained for.
2. Counterfeit items. Counterfeit and resold items from major retailers have become very popular in recent years. Online shoppers can't hold an object and assess its quality, and cyber criminals love to sell fake products for big markups. Counterfeiting and resold products have been a particular struggle for Amazon, and there is a growing number of eBay flippers who repackage sold-out products for outrageous prices. Counterfeit items are hard to spot, but your best guide is the rating system available on most sites. If a store has a 55-percent approval rating and has only made 30 transactions, that's a very bad sign. Customers are usually quick to criticize a bogus company and report faulty products.
3. Data breaches. When cyber criminals create fake websites, they're often seeking more than your credit card information: They may want to steal your identity as well. If an unfamiliar website is asking for more information than you would normally enter, you should probably stop your purchase until you're sure the website is safe.
One way to protect yourself from a breach is to shop from dependable merchants, but that doesn't necessarily mean you're 100 percent safe. As we've seen from the past, hackers focus on large companies such as Target, Wendy's, and Yahoo to steal logins, passwords and credit card information. But even if a company name and logo are familiar, keep an eye out for fake emails, shopping apps and URLs that imitate real companies. Be suspicious of any mysterious gift cards and offers for free gifts from retailers you have never dealt with. Most importantly, never give out personal information on the internet unless you are 100 percent confident that the site is real.
What steps do you take to keep safe when shopping online? Drop us a line and let us know. Please share this information with everyone.
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