Your Code Nation Guide to a Secure Christmas Shopping Spree!

The festive season is upon us, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are looming and as the Christmas shopping rush kicks in, so do cyber threats aiming to capitalise on the chaos. With so many people counting the pennies in this difficult economic time, cyber criminals will be hoping to cash in on your dreams of getting a bargain deal. In the spirit of keeping your holidays merry and bright, let’s unravel some of the secrets of safe online shopping, highlighting the pitfalls and offering savvy solutions.

1. Fake Websites: Unmasking the Grinches

As the holiday shopping season heats up, so does the creation of fake websites aiming to steal your festive joy. Stay vigilant for misspellings, mismatched branding and unsecured connections (make sure to use site url’s starting with https:// especially when making card payments online). Stay alert for these all tell-tale signs of the Grinch trying to steal your personal information.

2. Phishing Emails: Dodging the Festive Fraudsters

Amidst the festive cheer, cyber criminals are gearing up their game. Watch out for phishing emails disguised as enticing holiday deals or scam delivery updates. Spot the signs: hyperlinks leading to the wrong address, urgent pleas, and unexpected attachments. When in doubt, verify the legitimacy by doing a quick Google search for the retailer and accessing their site directly.

3. Too-Good-to-Be-True Deals: Distinguishing Naughty from Nice

With businesses fighting for customers in this particularly tough economic time, some will go the extra mile to lure in customers with irresistible deals this Christmas. However, if a deal seems too good to be true, it just might be. Exercise caution, especially if urgency tactics, such as “last one in stock” warnings or “50% off if you order now” are used. Verify the credibility of the source before divulging any personal information. A quick Google search can help with this.

4. Gift Card Scams: Don’t Be the Grinch’s Helper

Gift cards are a popular choice during the holidays, making them an attractive target for scammers. Be wary of unsolicited requests for payment in the form of gift cards. Legitimate businesses won’t ask for payment through this method. If in doubt, contact the business directly through official channels. Be wary at work too, if you get a surprise email from your manager or CEO to buy some gift cards for employees, “but it needs to be done quickly”, make sure to verify this first by another means of communication.

5. Delivery Scams: Outsmarting the Porch Pirates

With the flurry of holiday deliveries, scammers seize every opportunity to pose as delivery services. Be cautious of fake delivery notifications and verify any unexpected messages. Always track your deliveries through legitimate channels and refrain from clicking on suspicious links. If you’re not sure what delivery you missed, take a good think before you blindly click that link!

6. Counterfeit Goods: Dodging Santa’s Knockoffs

In the quest for the perfect gift, watch out for counterfeit goods lurking in the online shopping aisles, online stores or marketplaces. Stick to reputable retailers, and if a deal seems too unreal, it probably is. Check retailer reviews, product reviews and ratings to ensure you’re getting the real deal. You might want to snap up that deal before it’s gone but it’s better to be sure you’re getting what you paid for.

7. Unsecured Wi-Fi Networks: Shielding Your Cyber Sleigh

Avoid the pitfalls of public Wi-Fi networks while shopping. Cybercriminals often target unsecured networks to steal sensitive information. Opt for secure networks, use a virtual private network (VPN), and ensure your connections are encrypted for a worry-free online shopping experience.

8. Social Media Scams: Navigating the Cyber Tinsel

Social media is a festive hub, but it’s also a breeding ground for scams. Be cautious of deals promoted on social platforms, especially if they redirect you to unfamiliar websites. Stick to reputable retailers and avoid sharing personal information on public forums. There’s plenty of dodgy listings on places such as Facebook Marketplace too so make sure to think twice and check before buying. Be wary of sending money to private sellers in advance and if necessary, use PayPal or a credit card that covers you in case of fraud. Be aware of anyone who asks you to opt for “Send to friends and family” when requesting money on PayPal as you’ll no longer be covered in case something goes wrong.

If you’re ever in doubt about something you’ve seen or are thinking of buying online, it’s best to check with a friend or relative. A second opinion goes a long way. This Christmas, let’s make sure the only surprises we encounter are the ones wrapped under the tree. Shop smart, stay vigilant and have a happy, secure holiday season

Li-Ming Tan

Cyber Instructor

Code Nation


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