Written by Kelley Keehn
Wednesday, November 6th, 2019
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are big business! According to a recent survey, 55% of Canadians said they're looking to shop this Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
In the past, shoppers would brave malls for bargain discounts, but now many will do so in front of their laptop or with their smartphone in hand.
If you plan on ditching physical stores to find your deals online, be sure to keep safety in mind this season. Fraudsters are around every corner, trying to trick you into fake offers with fake sites, ads and phishing promos.
I asked cyber expert Chris Ichelson, CEO of HTG360, for his seven tips on how to shop safely online this Black Friday.
Tip 1: Don't Use Public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi isn't secure and opens you up to others possibly seeing what you're doing and purchasing while surfing the web. But using your data (and shutting off Wi-Fi on your phone) can also be expensive.
When secured Wi-Fi isn't available, consider solutions like VPN (virtual private network) that can be added for a small monthly fee. These services will secure communication while leveraging public Wi-Fi.
Tip 2: Protect Your Devices
Ichelson recommends that you disable Remote Desktop (an option that allows others to connect to your computer). “If someone with malicious intent gets your password, it will help protect you," he says. Disabling this feature can prevent your children from making unauthorized purchases as well, since they might be less safety conscious when gaming and on the internet.
Tip 3: How to Spot Fake/Phishing Deals
Ichelson says that for many people: “This is the weakest point in the experience. Users are moving fast, they're making quick decisions."
His advice? Slow down and be aware that phishing and malware attacks are lurking around every corner. Suspect all emails. Don't blindly open messages or click links. Make sure you know the sender before taking any action. If the email appears to come from a company you trust, just delete the email and verify the offer yourself on the company's official website (not with the link provided in the email).
Tip 4: Use Your Credit Card over Your Debit Card
Using debit is safe today, but you do have extra layers of protection when using your credit card, and many cyber experts recommend that you stick with your credit card online. If the retailer goes belly up, you don't receive what you ordered or it's an outright counterfeit product, you have protection with major credit card companies that you don't necessarily have when paying with your debit card.
Just remember to read your bank statements every month to spot and report potential fraud. If you don't do so within the timeframe offered by your financial institution (usually 30 or 60 days), you may be on the hook for it yourself.
Tip 5: How to Spot Fake Sites (Look for the Lock)
Ichelson recommends you use websites that are secure. Look for HTTPS and the "lock" icon in your browser address bar. It's not always possible, since some smaller companies may not be set up as securely online. In those cases, he recommends you contact the merchant directly (call or email) or use a third-party payment option like PayPal.
Tip 6: Set Up Email Alerts to Keep Track of Your Purchases
Most banks and credit companies offer this. Every time you make a purchase, you can be notified by text or email. That way, you can quickly spot, in real time, if a purchase was made by you. You can also confirm you paid the correct price, especially with exchange rates, duty, taxes and more. Take a screen capture of what you ordered online and email it to yourself. Create a special folder in your email program just for online purchases in case you need to dispute the charge later.
Tip 7: How to Spot Fake Apps
Ichelson admits that this is a hard one because there are so many apps out there.
Take a close look at how many options come up when you search the app. If you see more than one similar icon, dig in further. And be sure to check the developer of the app and the download count (generally, the higher the download, the more likely it is to be the legit one). Here's a link with more helpful tips.