Black Friday & Cyber Monday: How to keep safe while getting the best deals

Without a doubt, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the two biggest shopping days worldwide. However, not only do these two days bring the greatest deals of the year, they also bring along an increase in cyber-crime.

Here are a few tips to help you protect yourself while shopping online:

Tip #1: Stick to recognised retailers

By now, your Facebook and Instagram feeds should be inundated with links to all sorts of online stores offering unbelievable Black Friday deals. However, be aware that, even if the products or prices look genuine, some of these 'businesses' are not legitimate and the websites are only there for your card information.

Always be on the lookout for reviews on the website or social media pages, and do some quick searches to see if the site is a legitimate reseller of the product you're looking for. My best advice is to stick to known retailers.

Tip #2: Beware of Phishing attempts

Phishing attempts are known to increase by more than 300% over this time of year. A seemingly harmless email from your bank asking you to update details or possibly an email from Amazon asking you to log in to verify details could cause you to compromise your Amazon account (which already has your card details stored within your profile) or even worse, unwittingly hand over the log in details to your entire bank account.

Even if you think the email is legitimate, my advice is to never open these links in order to update the information to your portals. Rather go directly to your bank website or app and log in through there, if you do need to update any form of information you will be prompted upon login to your legitimate portal.

Most importantly if you do click on a link that seems to be suspicious, do not enter any login details at all, close the site, delete the link or mail and scan your device with your Anti Malware software.

Tip #3: Payment Methods

Now that your cart is full, and it is time to check out, let’s have a look at your options. You will find that most online retailers do offer alternatives to using your credit card on the site.

Keep an eye out for payment methods like Zapper or Ozow. Making use of these options means that your payment is doubly secured: both on the banking end as there is no need to use your card on the site at all, and also through the transaction provider who would have followed a vetting process when the retailer originally signed up to use their service.

If the retailer from whom you are making your purchases doesn't have many online consumer reviews or there are other warning signs, I would recommend making use of a Zapper or Ozow if they are available.

Now that we have the bases covered in keeping yourself safe from scammers, let's cover some other quick tips in staying safe:

1. Update your apps

Before starting your shopping ensure that the following items are on the latest versions to take advantage of the most recent security enhancements that were recently made available:

  • Banking mobile and PC applications

  • Any shopping apps that you will be making use of

  • Your desktop antivirus and any other security apps that you have in place

2. Avoid shopping on open public Wi-Fi networks

Public wireless networks, such as those at malls, airports or coffee shops, are not secure at all and you never know who might be busy sniffing around on the network or running possible attacks to capture your personal information.

3. Card Skimmers

  • If you are out shopping and physically swiping your card, always be aware of the card machines that you are using. If you are having trouble inserting your card or if it seems to be taking longer then usual to register that a card has been inserted, it could be possible that there is a mag stripe skimmer in that device. These skimmers are used to capture and clone card information

  • When using an ATM, have a closer look at the card slot area. If the card slot or outer housing to the card slot seems to be damaged, move to another ATM or request another card machine to use.

  • If there's no visible damage to the card slot but you are still having a hard time inserting your card or if the card struggles to go through, rather cancel and move to another ATM. This is one of the more common signs of a skimming device being installed on this ATM.

4. Use two-factor authentication wherever possible

Many applications like email and banking offer this service as an added level of security. Two-factor or multi-factor authentications (MFA) are one of the most secure services that can be offered as it involves making use of a code sent to you via SMS or a separate mobile app to grant access to your accounts.

To create a secure password, be sure to make use of these basic guidelines:

  • The length should be 8 or more characters

  • Use a random combination of capital letters, numbers, and special characters (such as !, @, _)

  • Avoid using passwords with easily obtainable info such as cell numbers, addresses, or last names.

5. Finally, check out my previous post on how to protect your home network and devices.

Let’s keep things safe online and offline during the shopping season.

Happy bargain hunting!