Online shopping is convenient, but comes with online risks. In Part 1 of our Holiday Safety Series we showed how to secure your email to avoid phishing scams and hacking. In this Part 2: how to minimize the risks of shopping online.
In this article we aim to make you more knowledgeable and secure when shopping online. We will also provide some easy ways to protect yourself from the bad actors out there with these tips:
1. Easy to spot indicators that you’re speaking with a scammer
Scammers will often request gift cards as payment because of their difficulty to trace. There has been a wave of recent gift card scams, in which a victim will be contacted by a scammer who may be posing as a government entity or tech support person. They will ask the victim to purchase a number of gift cards and pass the card information to the scammer. You may be contacted by a scammer via email, text, or over the phone.
If you are ever contacted by someone requesting payment in gift cards make sure to steer clear! No legitimate business will ever request shady payments like this. This goes for wire transfers and cryptocurrency as well.
Scammers will also make their phone numbers appear legitimate using caller ID tricks. To determine if you’re speaking with a scammer, look out for these red flags:
- Requesting unusual payment methods, like gift cards, cryptocurrency or wire transfers
- Automated voice messaging with vague legal threats
- Asking for personal information – many legitimate companies who you have selected to transact with require personal information to provide you their service, e.g. banks. You can validate you are speaking to the real entity by saying you will call them back at the number you have on file.
Want to learn more about how you can spot a scam? Take our quiz here!
2. Don’t get suckered by FAKE gift cards
Another way gift card scammers operate is by selling fake gift cards online at a discounted price.
A recent stint of gift card scams circulated on Facebook, in which resellers advertised high-value gift cards for a low cost.
Save yourself the stress and purchase legitimate gift cards, or e-gifts from the business directly, whether it is a brick and mortar store or an official website. You might miss out on a real attractive deal, but it is much more probable that you will miss out on getting scammed.
This goes for subscription products too – like the FixMeStick and StartMeStick. If you purchase an old FixMeStick or StartMeStick from someone reselling it online, unfortunately, we can’t confirm that you’ll receive the legitimate product with a full subscription. To protect yourself from reseller scams, we always recommend purchasing our products directly from our website or a reputable reseller, like Best Buy or Staples.
3. Only Connect to Secure Websites
Nowadays, no legitimate e-commerce site operates without https (i.e. look for the little padlock icon at the beginning of the web address.)
Careful here though: while no lock is a good indicator of an e-commerce scam, the presence of a lock is NOT a good indicator that the site is legitimate. It is easy for a web site operator, even scammers, to obtain that little lock for their site.
FixMeTip: Avoid risky websites and difficult to identify scams with McAfee Total Protection. McAfee keeps track of the legitimate versus illegitimate sites whether they have the lock or not, and will warn you if you are visiting an illegitimate one. Our special McAfee offer for FixMeStick /StartMeStick subscribers is available here.
4. Use Your StartMeStick
The StartMeStick ensures you start with a fresh computer operating system and browser every time you use it. This means no tracking data, no history, no malware, no browser infections.
Check out our StartMeStick FAQ page for answers to even more of your questions!
Did we miss something? Let us know how you protect yourself while online shopping in the comments below!
FixMeTip: Never shop online using a Public WiFi network. Public WiFi networks are more vulnerable to hacking because they don’t encrypt data while in transit, which means your passwords and payment information is available in the clear to hackers snooping on the network.
Stay safe and happy holidays from your friends at FixMeStick!