With retailers cranking out holiday sales earlier than ever this year, consumers have been checking gifts off their lists for months now. However, in the midst of scrolling through the endless deals, are you taking the steps necessary to protect your personal information and avoid internet scams and hackers?
A new study conducted by Norton, a cybersecurity company, is urging consumers to think about their cybersecurity while they’re shopping online this holiday season.
“We want to help bring back the joy of the holiday season and empower everyone with the resources they need to shop online safely,” said Kevin Roundy, researcher and technical director at Norton Labs. “From inflation to supply chain issues, there are so many things out of our control this holiday season. Taking the time to pause and take proactive steps to protect your digital and financial life before Cyber Monday is one way everyone can take back control.”
Most Americans are shopping online
Norton’s study revealed that 95% of Americans plan to shop online this holiday season, while 40% would be willing to risk their personal information to land the perfect gift.
On top of that, just 30% of survey respondents said that they feel very confident about safely shopping online this holiday season. This makes it all the more important for consumers to take their cybersecurity seriously when online shopping.
General tips for online safety
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) outlined several tips for making it through the holiday shopping season as safely as possible.
One of their most important tips is staying on top of software updates on smartphones and laptops and enabling automatic updates when possible to ensure all devices are running with the most up-to-date operating systems. This will make you less susceptible to hackers and keep your information as protected as possible.
“Before making any online purchases, make sure the device you’re using to shop online is up to date,” CISA writes. “Next, take a look at your accounts and ask, do they each have strong passwords? And even better, if two-factor authentication is available, are you using it?”
When it comes to where you’re shopping, Norton encourages consumers to only shop on trusted sites. It can be helpful to search for businesses on ConsumerAffairs, as well as the Better Business Bureau or sites like trustpilot.com.
When all else fails, look for customer reviews, and make sure real people have safely bought and received their purchases. For example, all ConsumerAffairs reviews are verified.
Safe, legitimate websites will often show a lock icon in the corner of the URL bar, which means that the site is privacy protected. If you’re unsure about a site, go back to trusted sites that you’ve ordered from before because you know they are safe.
Experts also recommend not saving your personal information – password, credit card information, bank accounts, etc. – on any website. A digital wallet like Google Pay or Apple Pay is often more secure, as retailers don’t have direct access to your credit card numbers. However, saved information on retailers’ websites makes consumers more vulnerable in the event of a data breach.
Many consumers may receive phishing emails that look like they’re from reputable retailers. Security experts warn consumers to be on the lookout for any deal that looks too good to be true.
While nearly every store is running major sales during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it’s also the prime time for scammers to strike. If you’re ever unsure about the validity of an email or a potential sale, check back with the original retailer or do more research.
Though the holiday season is hectic and it can be easy to just buy the first item you see on a website, it’s important to protect your digital and financial safety this time of year.