The end of November is approaching and we all know that means a variety of huge sales are on the horizon. The best known of course is Black Friday, which seems to go on longer each year. Not forgetting Cyber Monday and online shops desire to squeeze every penny out of us before Christmas. Stories of fraud and scams are in abundance at this time of year and you need to take precautions to not become part of one.
Online shopping has become so simple that you can sometimes let your guard down. We thought we should pull together a guide to help you stay safe online this winter.
What are online scams?
Online scams are typically people pretending to be legitimate businesses who use a a fake website or advert to pull you in. In most cases they are easy to spot because they are often too good to be true. You might see the adverts on Facebook or other Social Media platforms offering branded goods at half the cost. Quite often you might even receive the goods but they will be fake or low quality.
What are the signs of scam websites?
Quite often a giveaway is the form of payment requested. They will mostly stay away from payment gateways that offer protection like PayPal. You will be asked to pay with a pre loaded card or money transfer. If you do this then there is very little chance of you seeing the money again.
There is a good guide on spam websites provided by Kaspersky which you can find here.
How to avoid scam websites
In a lot of cases a fake website or shop will only appear on social media. A good rule of thumb is to Google the store and check for reviews. Use trusted review sites like TrustPilot or Reviews.io. Not always 100% proof but a decent guide. Type the name of the shop into google followed by the word “Review” and it will be clear quickly if they are real or not.
How can I tell if a website is Secure?
Over the last couple of years Google has been enforcing websites to have security built in. This is done by ensuring websites encrypt data that is exchanged with a wep page. A good example of this is to ensure that your credit card details are scrambled as they travel between your website. You can identify secure sites by the domain url which should start with HTTPS://www. If it doesn’t have this at the start, do not enter any private details. You should get a warning from Google anyway about the site being insecure.
Being careful with Email and text links
There are a lot of spam emails and texts going around at the moment. The most common is the delivery text, supposedly from a courier asking you to click a link in a text. Avoid this at all costs. It will ask you to enter bank details to release your delivery. You will never see the money again and most likely have an empty bank account.
There are also a lot of emails being sent out asking you to pay an invoice for goods. The invoice is usually a scam but actually clicking on it can cause problems in your system.
You should always check the emails you receive from companies, especially banks and brands like Microsoft. A typical scam email will contain spelling mistakes. Sometimes fraudsters do this on purpose because if you don’t spot the mistakes then you are an easy target. It is kind of like a filter for them. Email fraud is getting more sophisticated so checking the email address is an easy win. The email from someone like Microsoft will be from Microsoft.com. Any email address with extra wording and full stops is usually fraudulent.
Use standard payment systems
The likes of PayPal and Credit Cards are good ways to ensure you have a certain level of protection for payments. If you are ripped off you have some recourse through your payment provider.
Understand how Banks Communicate
Be safe with your passwords and log in details, especially when it comes to banks. They will never ask for your security codes or ask you to transfer money to a safe account because yours is compromised. Log in to your banking app and check for messages. This is how most banks get hold of you.
Use a password Manager
This is an old one but people still use simple passwords to access all sorts of accounts online. If your information has been hacked for one account, the details will be sold on to hackers. They won’t just try your password for Netflix to hack Netflix. They will try and use the same login details for other accounts including your bank.
Check your password protection levels with your password manager. Google Password Manager tells you how many of your accounts are unsafe. You don’t need to be too complex with passwords, pick three memorable words and jumble them up for different log-ins. You can also add numbers for letters and it should be as safe as a complicated jumble of numbers and letters.
You can get more advice on passwords from the National Cyber Security Centre by clicking here
If you can secure access to apps using biometrics on your phone or computer, you should do so.
If you come across any problems shopping this year and need to know where you stand legally, then please get in touch with us at Marlborough Law.