Don’t Bargain With Your Safety During The New Year Sales

David Emm
The appeal of being the first one in the door to snap up deals on your favourite brands and products during the sales period is quickly becoming a thing of the past, since much more can be accomplished online and from the comfort of our own home.

The appeal of being the first one in the door to snap up deals on your favourite brands and products during the sales period is quickly becoming a thing of the past, since much more can be accomplished online and from the comfort of our own home.

The festive holiday shopping season, which starts with Black Friday, continues with Cyber Monday and then carries on until Christmas and through to the January sales, now accounts for a significant share of annual sales revenue for retailers. For brands looking to make the most of this spending spree, the desire to sell as much as possible at a time of intense competition is leading to ever more aggressive marketing campaigns – particularly online.

Promotional e-mails, website ads and social media posts bombard consumers in the approach to the holiday season, generating a great deal of noise. Tactics such as one-click buying are designed to make the purchase process easier and faster, but can leave unwary shoppers exposed to online scams.

The number of online shoppers increases every year; last year, mobile buyers swelled their ranks even further, with up to three quarters of emails received on Black Friday and Cyber Monday opened on a mobile device.

There can be little doubt of mobile’s growing dominance in retail over the last few years. While retailers may not have seen the physical queues and mayhem they expected this year, purchases on mobile phones have steadily increased, growing from 3.4 per cent to 36.7 per cent over the last four years.

This shows us just how far mobile has come as the shopping channel of choice – connected smart devices are generally considered to be a very convenient way to make our lives easier and are increasingly used to make instant decisions and purchases. However, this could have significant security implications as cybercriminals are deploying creative scams to lure mobile deal seekers.

In the hectic weeks leading up to Christmas, as well as continuing into the New Year, the number of mobile purchases increases. Thanks to well-stocked online stores, customers can shop stress-free around the clock and have all their items delivered direct to their doors. However, a considerably larger quantity of transactions, and a reduced awareness during the online shopping rush, makes this time of year an ideal hunting ground for hackers, phishers and other attackers; disguising their attacks as offers that are too good to refuse, a concerned security message from a bank requiring urgent attention or a special rate discount from your credit card service are just a few of the hooks that they use to fool unsuspecting shoppers.

With a growing tendency to use smart devices for everything, including mobile transactions - which are often made through unsecured and unprotected Wi-Fi networks - it’s more important than ever that shoppers think before they shop. Because of the large number and variety of devices available, the IoT (Internet of Things) landscape has become an attractive target for cybercriminals, with the possibility for hackers to blackmail and spy on people as well as perform illegal activities or extort money directly.

Mobile-first consumers are likely to be a key driver behind the rise in financial phishing: the use of smartphones for online shopping has increased from 23 per cent to 43 per cent and the use of online payment systems has increased from 14 per cent to 29 per cent since 2016. The rise of mobile-first behaviour among consumers is creating new opportunities for cybercriminals as mobile device owners will have less time to think and check each action, particularly if they are out and about. Many countries outside the UK have seen a rise in powerful mobile banking Trojans, indicating the need to be aware of the many ways in which cybercriminals work – and how to overcome them.

With financial fraud at an all-time high, consumers need to be on high alert for any indications that they may be handing over sensitive details to an unreliable source. Paying attention to the following will enable you to do your sales shopping online without worrying:

1. Secure your all devices using Internet security software.

2. Make sure you apply security updates to your operating system and applications as soon as they are available.

3. Only use secure sites. Look for a URL beginning with ‘HTTPS://’ - that’s ‘S’ for SECURE. Look also for a closed padlock on the web browser’s address bar - by clicking or double-clicking on it you will be able to see details of the site’s security.

4. Use a unique password for every online site - use a mixture of letters, numbers and special characters and make sure they’re at least 15 characters long. If this seems too hard, use a password manager.

5. Don’t click on random links in e-mails - it’s better to type in a URL yourself, to avoid the risk of ending up on a phishing site. If a deal seems too good to resist, go directly to the website to find it, rather than click on the link, to be sure.

6. Try to stick to familiar sites that you know or have heard of. Even then, take care - criminals often deliberately misspell the name of their fake websites to make it look like a familiar site.

7. If you do buy from a new vendor, research it carefully. A good test is to see if they can be contacted if the order goes wrong - look for an e-mail, a phone number, an address and a returns policy.

8. Use extra caution when using your mobile device for online purchases. Shortened URLs, often used because they are phone-friendly, can hide the fact that they lead to a risky site.

9. Avoid using untrusted public Wi-Fi hotspots for confidential transactions like online shopping - public Wi-Fi networks are common places for hackers to sneakily intercept your information.

10. Keep checking your accounts regularly to make sure you notice any unusual/fraudulent activity straight away

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