Retailers and shoppers are gearing up for one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year but unfortunately, they’re not the only ones.
This hive of online activity and spending attracts the attention of cybercriminals who are keen to take advantage of this mass market to launch their online scams.
Black Friday is a major shopping event that originated in America, but has since grown in popularity in the UK. It falls on November 23 this year and marks the start of a shopping bonanza when retailers sell off their stock at discount prices.
Cyber Monday follows, and it’s become an even bigger event as shoppers go online to avoid the frenzied crowds that hit the shops on Black Friday.
The amount of money spent over this cyber weekend is escalating year on year, and last year in the UK, shoppers spent a staggering £7.8 billion. This year, online marketing site Text Marketer predicts sales of £9.2 billion as shoppers hit the stores and go online to snap up the hottest deals.
Cybercriminals follow the money and this weekend of crazed spending provides them with the perfect opportunity to scam a large number of people. With attacks becoming more sophisticated, shoppers need to be extra cautious when looking for the latest bargains online.
Below are 10 Cyber Safety tips to keep you safe online this Black Friday and Cyber Monday:
1. Watch out for fake websites
This is one of the most popular ways criminals will try to trick shoppers into falling for their Black Friday and Cyber Monday scams. The fraudsters will clone websites to dupe consumers into thinking they are shopping on a legitimate site. The website may appear almost identical to the real site, however subtle changes can indicate that all is not as it seems.
A web address that ends in '.co.uk' may be changed to a '.org', images may be pixilated, functions on the site may not work properly and the content will often be sub-standard. It’s always worth double checking the address of a site to confirm its authenticity.
2. Only use secure sites
The easiest way to check if the site you are on is secure is to check the URL. At the start of all web addresses you will see either a ‘http’ or a ‘https’. If the site’s URL starts with a ‘http’, it means the site is not secure and any information you share on this site could be intercepted. Always use a site that starts with 'https' as the ‘s’ stands for secure and ensures that all communication between your browser and the website you are visiting is encrypted. When you’re checking out, always look to the left of the URL to make sure there is a green padlock icon, this is another way to determine if the site is secure.
3. Use a credit not a debit card for shopping online
When possible, it’s always best to use a credit card when shopping online as it offers additional protection over other forms of payment. If a fraudulent purchase is made on your credit card, there’s a good chance your bank will reimburse you straight away. However, if a criminal steals your debit card details, they can clear out your personal account and it can be more difficult to claim the money back.
4. Beware of phishing emails
Phishing is one of the easiest ways for criminals to steal your personal information without you even knowing. There's always a massive spike in these types of scams on Black Friday and Cyber Monday so you should always be very wary of any emails offering cash prizes or rock bottom deals. These emails are designed to trick shoppers into clicking on a link which may appear to come from a well-known retailer. Trust your gut if you think there’s something not right about the email and delete it immediately.
5. Avoid deals that are too good to be true
Black Friday and Cyber Monday feature lots of legitimate deals offered by trusted and reputable retailers, however cybercriminals know we’ll be scouring the web for the cheapest deals and they take advantage of this increased traffic to slip in lots of fake offers.
Be wary of any emails, pop ups, or posts on social media promising rock bottom prices. Clicking on the link could bring you straight to a phishing site or you may end up downloading malware onto your device. It can be hard to distinguish between a real bargain and a fake, so it’s best to do your research to find out if the site is credible. It’s also worth remembering that if an offer seems too good to be true, it usually is!
6. Use strong passwords
You’ll have heard it a million times, but creating a strong password really is one of the easiest ways you can protect yourself from being hacked online. With so many passwords to remember, it can be tempting to use the same password for multiple accounts, however this puts us at great risk of having our data stolen. If hackers can work out just one of our passwords, whether it’s a Facebook account or our online banking details, they can potentially access every single account we have.
It’s always best to use a unique username and password for separate online accounts so that in the unfortunate event of being phished, the attackers won’t have access to your other online accounts. Your password should also be strong and difficult to crack. It’s best to create a password that is between 15-20 characters long, contains a mix of upper and lowercase letters, and include numbers or symbols.
7. Watch out for social media scams
Social media scams are rife on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The crooks know that people are going online to specifically look for deals, so they make it as easy as they can for shoppers to fall for their online scams. Facebook and Twitter tend to be the favoured choice for these malicious posts and the criminals will ask shoppers to like and share their posts to reach as wide an audience as possible.
In recent years, cyber criminals have turned their attention to social media as it provides the ideal platform to dupe people into clicking on dodgy links. Users tend to be more trusting on social media and it’s more difficult to determine if a link is malicious than it would be on a more traditional platform.
8. Avoid Public Wi-Fi to go shopping
There’s no doubt that using public Wi-Fi is a quick, convenient, and free way to go online, however using public Wi-Fi to search for the best Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals could open you up to a range of security risks.
Public Wi-Fi requires no authentication to establish a network connection, allowing fraudsters direct access to any unsecured devices on the same open network. This enables hackers to steal valuable information such as login passwords, credit card info and other personal and financial details.
Unsecured Wi-Fi networks can also be used to spread malware, allowing criminals unrestricted access to everything on your device. This information can in turn be used to commit identity fraud, or the information can be sold on to criminal third parties.
9. Ensure all your software is up to date
Before going online to shop about for the hottest deals, you should make sure that all your security software is up to date. This will prevent cybercriminals from gaining access to your computer through vulnerabilities in older and outdated systems. The installation of anti-virus software will also help detect threats on your computer and block unauthorised users from gaining access.
10. Monitor bank statements for fraudulent activity
It’s always worth keeping a close eye on bank statements to make sure there are no unusual transactions on your account. Criminals know that during Black Friday and Cyber Monday there will be lots of online activity, so they hope that any unusual debits from your account will go undetected. Typically, the crooks will make a few initial debits for smaller amounts then go in for a larger amount which could clean out your bank account.
Despite the increasing sophistication of phishing attacks there are a number of ways you can protect yourself online. MetaPhish has been specifically designed to protect businesses from phishing and ransomware attacks and provides the first line of defence in combating cyber-crime. Get in touch for further information on how we can help protect your business.