So how many of you knew there was such a thing as Cyber Monday? An invention of the National Retail Federation, Cyber Monday is the Monday following Black Friday. Just as Black Friday features all kinds of sales and promotions in the stores, Cyber Monday features sales and promotions by online retailers.
You can be sure that scammers, cyber criminals and identity thieves are ready to take advantage of people going online to search for bargains. So let’s review a few online safety tips before venturing out on a virtual shopping trip.
- Make sure your anti-virus is current and all security updates have been applied before starting. Although there is always new malware being developed, updating your system will help protect it from all of the known malware, which is a good start.
- Check search results before clicking. Many scammers and criminals have learned how to manipulate search engine results so that their site is returned as a legitimate result to a search for “Christmas sales”, for example. Check the entire domain name, especially the last section. If the last part of the domain name is something like .cn, .fm, .br, .ru, etc., I would not recommend clicking on it. It is probably a site set up to steal your information.
- Use a low-limit credit card or virtual credit card for online purchases. I have a credit card with a $500 limit that I use for most online purchases. If criminals get that number, there is not much they can do with it. For major purchases, I use a virtual credit card offered by my credit card company. I go to the credit card company’s web site and set up a virtual card that has a different number, expiration date and CVS code. I can set the limit on the card to the amount of the purchase. Once again, if the criminals get this number, the most they can get is the amount I have applied to that number – they have no access to my main account, and the virtual number expires after a few days.
- If you are suspicious of a site, you can go to www.whois.org and type in the domain name of the site to get more information about it. You can see how long the site has been registered, who the contact person is, etc. If the site has only been registered a short time, be very wary.
- Check to see if the site is using a secure connection before entering your financial data. Most sites using a secure connection will have a closed lock in the status bar or next to the URL. However, don’t just trust that the lock means the site is secure. That can be faked by the web page designer. Instead, right click on the lock and make sure that the site is using a digital certificate signed by a nationally known certificate provider, such as Verisign. (See below.)
- As always, exercise caution and common sense when sharing any personal or financial information online.