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Online Christmas shopping 2020? Eight rules to make it easier, faster and safer!

Online Christmas shopping

Online purchases substantially increased in the last year, also due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The lockdowns and the safety regulations applied to traditional shopping introduced even the most skeptical ones to more immediate online shopping.

This situation provided cybercrime with the perfect conditions to increase their recurrent deceptions. In 2020, not only the number of digital scams and phishing attacks increased, but also the complexity and sophistication of deception techniques. 

With attacks becoming more sophisticated, buyers must become more cautious in seeking incredible offers and more aware of risks and threats. 

The good news is you can still shop safely, this Christmas: how?  

Following our eight good rules, of course! 

  1. Beware of fake websites. 

Creating fake websites that are almost perfect clones of the original ones is becoming one of the most common methods among cybercriminals. The main goal is to trick shoppers into believing they’re buying from a legitimate site with great discounts. At first look, the fake website may seem almost identical to the real one. However, small differences tell you that it is not all as it seems. 

In these cases, make an extra check: you could spot differences in the web address, maybe ending with a different extension from the original (e.g., .net instead of .com). Quite suspicious, right? 

Low-quality images and features that don’t work are also important clues. In doubt, before making an uncertain purchase, always use a search engine to check the site, reliability and its reviews. 

  1. Beware of Phishing emails.  

Phishing is still one of the most common methods, exploited by criminals to steal personal information and sensitive data, often without the victim knowledge. As Christmas approaches, remember this is criminals preferred part of the year to launch phishing attacks. For this reason, it is necessary to keep your guard up and be wary of emails and messages that offer unmissable bargains, vouchers for purchases or last-minute Christmas deals, even if they seem to come from known retailers. 

The goal of phishing remains to deceive the recipient into clicking on a malicious link. 

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  1. Too good to be true? Ditch that deal! 

The digital world is so saturated with offers that it is increasingly difficult not to be fooled by false promises. Telling the difference between a real deal and a fake deal is not always smooth. 

A basic rule that always works: be wary of emails, pop-ups or social media posts promising overly resounding benefits. Clicking on those links could redirect you to a phishing site or install silent malware on your device. 

Again, use search engines to determine whether the proposed offer is credible or not. 

  1. Use secure payment methods

Credit cards or payment services such as PayPal are the best payment choices for online purchases. These methods offer full protection in case of card number theft and protect you against possible scams. 

Avoid shopping on any site that does not provide secure payment methods, or that asks for sensitive information (such as your bank account number and credentials) to complete purchases. 

  1. Use diversified credentials to register on different sites. 

You often need to create an account to make an online purchase: a very convenient practice to make subsequent purchases or to monitor the purchase process. 

When creating a new account, it is crucial, although sometimes annoying, to insert a unique username and password. This extra care will protect you, in the unfortunate event that you become a phishing victim: attackers won’t be able to access other APPS and sites that you use if you shield them with different passwords. 

  1. Always use hard-to-guess passwords. 

With so many passwords to remember, you may want to use the same password for multiple accounts, but this could expose you to risks. 

If a hacker manages to guess even one password, whether it’s a Facebook account or a bank account, they could potentially be able to access all the APPS and sites that use the same password.  

A great way to create strong passwords that are hard for anyone else to crack is to use a passphrase. A passphrase is a phrase transformed into a long word that is easy to remember, but just for its creator. Start from a phrase that you find easy to memorize: the first letter of each word will build your password. You can also replace some letters with numbers and symbols. 

  1. Keep apps and security software up-to-date. 

Before shopping online, you need to make sure that the security software of the device used is up to date. It will prevent cybercriminals from accessing it, exploiting vulnerabilities in older versions of the software. Apply the same caution to all the systems and APPS that you use. An old version can be an accessible backdoor for experienced criminals. 

  1. Only shop on a secure connection network 

Using public Wi-Fi, which doesn’t require authentication to establish a network connection, is always the worst practice. Shopping online and sharing payment data over an unprotected network? Might be even worse. 

It is important to remember that an “open” network allows any scammer to access any device just by using the same network. Stealing valuable information such as login passwords, credit card information, and other personal and financial details is an easy game for experts. Follow our rules: you are wiser than those criminals. 

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