Data Doctors: 2021 Online Shopping Tips
The holiday season is a good time to shop online, as well as scams. Ken Colburn of Data Doctors explains how you can protect yourself.
Q: What are the latest safety tips for shopping online?
A: The holiday season always brings online shopping volume to the highest levels of the year, which also means bad guys are stepping up their tactics as well.
Sophisticated phishing scams
One of the more sophisticated scams comes with a fully functioning website that seems to sell popular and hard-to-get items cheaply.
Creating a fake shopping website that looks exactly like a popular retailer’s website is pretty easy, so you can’t always believe what you see.
The creators will then use social media and web comments to link to these “amazing deal websites” in an attempt to trick unsuspecting bargain buyers.
Take a close look at the entire web address, as bogus sites often use elaborate tricks to try and hide the fact that you are not on the retailer’s website.
Consider installing a free web browser extension, such as Trend Micro Control, which will actively scan every link presented to you to alert you when something is suspicious.
Retailer apps are more secure
Fake shopping sites target those who use a web browser to shop, so an easy way to avoid being cheated is to do all your shopping through the mobile apps of popular retailers.
As long as you go to your device’s official app store and download the app yourself, this is the safest way to shop online.
Smart Email Scams
Another scam involves email messages that appear to be from a popular retailer with a tracking number or an attachment that claims to be your tracking information.
Always write down your tracking number when you make the initial purchase, so that you can manually access the shipping company’s website to track your purchases.
If you forgot to write it down, log into your account to get the tracking number for your purchase history, instead of clicking a link in any email.
Additionally, watch for emails claiming to be from the “fraud department” asking you to verify a purchase. Never interact with links or phone numbers in the message; go to the retailer’s website or app and log into your account to verify anything.
Get burner accounts
A residual effect of the online shopping season is that your email address and phone number will be added to more marketing databases.
If you set up a special Gmail account only for all your shopping activity, it will prevent all spam from reaching your personal account. If it gets overrun with trash, just stop using it.
You can do the same to protect your cell phone number by signing up for free. the voice of google number, which works through an app on your smartphone.
All SMS and calls that go to your “burner” number will appear on your smartphone through the app without ever exposing your real number to the world of marketing.
Never use a debit card
If you fall for the trap and use your debit card to make the purchase, the money comes straight out of your checking account.
Debit card fraud protection generally works the same as credit cards, but while you’re trying to put things right, that missing money could prevent you from paying your mortgage, rent, or car.
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