With the holiday season here, consumers will soon be surfing the internet seeking gifts for family and friends. Typically, online holiday shopping peaks on “Cyber Monday,” the first Monday following Thanksgiving. While it is a major day to shop, it’s also a busy day for cyber thieves trying to steal identity elements and credit card information through fraud schemes, viruses, and malware. There is no reason to avoid the excitement of Cyber Monday; however, it is a good idea for you, your family, and your employees to follow these simple tips when shopping online to better protect their PCs and pocketbooks.
- Double-Check “Great Deals” Before Clicking
Before responding to an email or click a pop-up ad offering a great deal, check to make sure it’s on the level. A website alone doesn’t mean it's an authentic business (and even well-known websites can be “spoofed” by cyber criminals that create legitimate-looking sites to capture credit card data). Before responding to an email or an advertisement from a retailer, visit the company’s actual website directly and do some research to make sure the offer is real.
- Never Open Emails from Unknown Sources
Emails remain a popular method for merchants to get the word out – but they are also an effective way for hackers to spread viruses and malware. If you get an email from an unfamiliar source, or if someone you know sends you an email that looks questionable, delete it. Send it to your trash folder, and then empty the trash. If it is from a friend and looks real, you should still contact the friend and ask about it before opening. A little caution can help keep your PC out of the computer-repair shop.
- Do Not Click on Pop-Up Boxes
One of the more popular methods of infecting PCs with malware is to entice the user to click open pop-up ads that suddenly appear on a PC, laptop, or mobile device. Some pop-ups are constructed so that even if the user tries to delete the ad, it triggers an infestation. It’s best to set your home or business computer controls to block all pop-ups at the browser level. Once a virus is active on a computer, it can take over the PC and even an entire network quickly. If pop-up malware infects your computer, visit a computer repair site immediately.
- Protect Your Computer with Anti-Virus Software
Shopping online can turn into a race to visit multiple sites in an effort to compare prices. Jumping quickly from one site to another is a good way for a PC to pick up digital viruses. Even reputable sites can be hacked and visiting an infected site can leave a PC infected. To help protect a victimized computer, go to a computer repair site and download an up-to-date anti-virus program. If you, your family, or your employees are doing some particularly intense Cyber Monday shopping, you may wish to consider running the program daily and even more frequently to help keep the system secure.
- Use the Same Credit Card for All Online Purchases
Although it may be tempting to spread your Cyber Monday activity across several credit cards, it is actually a better practice to use a single credit card for all your online purchases. Never reach for a debit card or one tied to your bank account. Most credit cards come with fraud protection, so if a card is compromised, it won’t directly impact your account or available funds (debit cards do not offer that same protection). If all of your purchases are on the same card, it makes it easier to track purchases and spot suspicious activity.
- Enter Only the Required Information – Per Purchase
To keep your identity and banking information secure, only enter information on a secure website, and only provide what is required, per purchase. Do not allow any retail site to retain your financial information. It may seem convenient, but as the many headline-grabbing data breaches in recent years show, even the most reputable retailers can get hacked. Your personal information is safer with you than it is with a merchant.
Holiday shopping is supposed to be fun, not one hampered by cybercrime. By practicing cautious online-shopping habits, your yuletide shopping should remain safe. However, if you suspect your home of business PC has picked up a few unwanted gifts from cyber criminals on Cyber Monday, contact the professionals at Geeks on Site for immediate help. We can offer a fast PC tune up.