Black Friday and Cyber Monday are almost upon us. Two very important days of the year for the savvy shopper – and, I guess, a sign that Christmas is just around the corner. However, with increased internet traffic and online financial transactions, it’s pretty likely there’s going to be a small portion of the population sitting patiently, rubbing their hands and licking their lips, waiting for some unsuspecting bargain hunter to unknowingly fall into their trap.
But just because that’s a possibility, doesn’t mean it’s going to happen to you though, right? Okay, good. To be on the safe side, we’ve compiled these tips to help you be sure that both your personal details and hard-earned pocket money are going where they’re supposed to. And - the best bit - these don’t cost a single penny, woohoo!
1. Don’t click links in dodgy emails.
It’s a well-known fact that companies like to send their subscribers discounts or other perks over email. Received discount or another communication from a company you weren’t subscribed to? Don’t click. Unbelievably good discount or reward, but the email doesn’t look legitimate? Don’t click. Whatever you get sent, please be wary that it’s not an attempt to capture your personal details.
2. Check the website’s security certificate.
If your browser presents you with a warning that the website you’re trying to visit isn’t secure, then you should probably trust your browser. Hackers have developed methods of redirecting traffic to convincing looking, but illegitimate, versions of websites (remember what happened to British Airways?). If your browser does not present you with such a warning, your address bar should have a padlock icon in it. If the padlock is closed, your connection is secure. If the padlock is open, be cautious.
3. Use multi-factor authentication (where possible!)
Multi-factor authentication (MFA), very simply, is another layer of authentication required by a website to make sure it’s definitely you making the purchase. You may have already seen it on some websites where they ‘contact your bank’ to verify your identity or you get a prompt to enter an agreed password that you have with your bank.
4. Don’t use public WiFi
When you use public networks, it makes it easier for people to access and steal your personal details. A hacker is more than capable of hijacking the network and acting as a ‘middleman’, redirecting information that is input over the network to themselves. So never use public WiFi when performing tasks that require inputting of sensitive information! If you do need to use public WiFi, then ensure that you use a VPN as it encrypts your data and protects your privacy.
5. Ensure your antivirus is up to date
If your software is up to date, then it’s more likely to be able to handle the latest threats that are out there waiting to infiltrate your machine. If you are unlucky enough to pick up any unwanted finds when doing your bargain hunting, then having antivirus software will give you a fighting chance and hopefully keep your banking information and passwords secret!
6. Use a credit card
Only if you have one, of course. Using a credit card (anywhere, not just online, may I add) provides you with an extra layer of protection against fraud. This is because credit cards don’t give direct access to your bank account. If your credit card did get either lost, stolen or cloned, then you would be able to report any fraudulent transactions and be reimbursed much easier than if it were your debit card.
And there you have it, 6 for the price of 0. If that's not a bargain, then I don't know what is. Happy shopping!