Online shopping is becoming a great demand, especially during the holiday season. While it’s convenient shopping for your gifts online, it can also be a bit risky if you’re not careful with your personal information. Reports of identity theft and credit card fraud see a significant uptick this time of the year because hackers know this the perfect time to prey on unsuspecting online shoppers. You don’t need to be scared of shopping online, but you should be aware of the common scams and make sure you’re taking the necessary steps to protect yourself from online threats.

Below are a few of the most common online shopping scams as well as the tips on how you can protect yourself from being a victim of one.

1. Discounted gift cards

Most discounted gift card offers that come directly from retailers are legitimate, but online shoppers should still be wary of scammers who use fake promotions of gift cards to steal from unsuspecting buyers.

One of the best ways to determine whether or not a gift card offer is real or fake is to look to see if it asks for banking information. Official retailers and banks will not ask for this information. If you notice that an offer is asking too much information, delete the email right away. If it doesn’t ask for banking information, then it’s probably safe. However, it’s still best to look look up the offer or call the retailer to be sure the offer is real.

2. Suspicious links in emails

Like gift card offers, most of the emails you receive from retailers this season will be the real deal. However, there will still be some sketchy emails you should look out for in your inbox to avoid being scammed.

If you get an offer from a site you don’t recognize, don’t click the link offer. Scammers are now using malicious links in fake shopping emails to send users to pages that ask for personal information for identity theft. These pages can also be used by online thieves to install ransomware on your PC or device.

If a suspicious email offer really sounds like something you’d be interested in, search the offer in Google and see if anything comes up. If it’s an actual deal from a legitimate company, you’ll likely be able to find the offer somewhere else online. If it’s not, you’ll probably find a result or two that indicates it’s a scam. You could also try looking up the sender or calling a customer service number to determine whether or not the company is legit.

3. Fake coupon sites

There are lots of sites who will offer you free coupons once you’ve filled out a “quick survey.” This seems harmless enough, but the survey landing pages are often designed to gather personal information from you or install malware on your device.

To avoid coupon scams, run a Facebook search for the name of the site that lists the coupon you’re interested in to see whether or not it is a verified page. If you don’t see a check mark by the site’s name on it’s Facebook page, it is not authorized and could be sketchy. The check mark will either be blue or gray depending on how it is viewed by Facebook’s verification standards, but both colors show that it is an authentic page.

You should also take a look at the URL structure for the link where the coupon links you to. If it indicates you will be going to a page on another site or perhaps a survey page on the same site, then the coupon is likely invalid. Finally, take a moment to give yourself a reality check. If the offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. For example, 75% off at Best Buy from an unaffiliated and slightly sketchy coupon site is probably too good to be true.

4. Malware website reroutes

Another way to savvy scammers are out to get unsuspecting shoppers is through malicious pages that install rerouting malware on your device. Typically, you’ll encounter these through bad links sent to you through email or text when you accidentally type in the wrong URL while trying to visit a specific site. Once you’ve visited one of these pages, it will install malware that reroutes you to fake sites when you’re trying to go to legitimate sites like your online banking site or a specific retailer.

The best way to protect yourself from this kind of scam is to run Malware Bytes on your computer on a consistent basis. This service will help you stop and delete malware and spyware from your device. The next step is to keep your browser updated, and steer clear of Internet Explorer since it is more vulnerable to those kinds of attacks. You should also keep an eye out for anything that looks strange on the websites you visit regularly. Fake sites will typically be much lower quality than real sites and have strange copy or glitches that you don’t tend to see on real sites for financial institutions or major retailers.

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This entry was posted by Staff Writer on Saturday, December 31, 2016 at 6:20:38 AM and is filed under Computer Security & Data Protection.

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