It’s nearly Black Friday and Cyber Monday—that beautiful time of the year when Americans forego their normal, sensible fiscal concerns and embrace the spirit of debauched consumerism that our great country is really all about. But before you bust out that credit card to needlessly splurge on a new 4K OLED or a Meta Quest Pro or, if you’re feeling extra bold, a Humane AI pin, it might be best to take a quick skim of some online safety tips. Just as you might be on the lookout for hot deals, cybercriminals are on the lookout for the weakest members of the digital herd and are hoping to scam them hard.
Yep, hackers love deal days just as much as the rest of us, because it’s the perfect opportunity to phish an unsuspecting gift buyer. With that in mind, here are a few tips to stay safe amidst the shopping frenzy.
- Beware of “deals” you find on social media. Security experts agree that a huge amount of scams will be perpetrated through social media sites this year. Social media is generally not the best place to look for high-quality information about anything—be it politics, current events, or Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. Social media scams can take a number of forms, including trending posts that redirect users to shady websites that offer deals that are obviously too good to be true. This is pretty standard stuff, but I would encourage you to steer clear of any Facebook or Instagram posts promising you wildly low prices.
- Avoid the dreaded fake shipping notification. These days, if you’re buying stuff online, you’re probably signed up for SMS and/or email notifications designed to keep you abreast of order confirmations and shipping updates. With so many orders in circulation, it’s easy to get tripped up and fail to differentiate between a legitimate notification and a phishing message that has been dressed up to look like a real one from UPS, Fedex, USPS, DHL, or a retailer. I’d recommend always carefully checking the contents of each message you receive, examining where it came from, and never clicking through a link unless you’re absolutely sure it’s safe. Again, pretty standard stuff.
- Look out for fake websites and phishing scams. Hopefully, you’re sticking to well-known websites and companies to get your shopping done. Still, some desperate shoppers may find themselves straying off the beaten path and scouring any website that claims it can get them a hot deal. That’s probably a bad move. Security experts contend that a lot of holiday scams this year will use websites that appear to offer hugely reduced prices for expensive, hard-to-find items; unfortunately, these sites will be little more than an opportunity for the customer to get their money and personal information stolen.
Let’s be honest: Most of us are going to order the bulk of our stuff from places like Amazon or Best Buy, which means that the chances that you’ll stumble onto a fake website or a social media scam will, hopefully, be low. Of course, scammers know you’ll be going to Amazon or Best Buy, so that’s who they’ll impersonate. It always pays to be wary, so keep your head on a swivel and stay on the lookout for those phishing messages and seedy offers. Tens of millions of dollars are lost each year to this sort of thing; you certainly don’t want to be one of the unlucky few.