Woman buying Christmas presents online

Cyber Savvy Christmas Shopping

If you’re like me and love a bargain at this time of year there's plenty on offer. Unfortunately however, even in the run up to Christmas if you see an offer that looks too good to be true - there's a very good chance it's a scam!

Cyber criminals have a field day at this time of year because they know your guard is a lot lower as you rush to bag the bargains. Your inbox is probably full of promotional emails promising the most incredible deals and when this is the norm, it becomes hard to differentiate real bargains from the dodgy ones.

Fake websites and phoney branding can trick even the savviest shopper. But, fortunately, you don't need to be a Tech expert to spot them.

Follow our tips below and hopefully you can help protect yourself from the majority of these scams.

  1. Install the Latest Software and App Updates

Yes, it can be annoying to wait a few minutes whilst the updates load, but they normally contain really important security updates that can protect you against identity theft, even better, turn on automatic updates so your device will update itself.

  1. Use strong passwords

Secure your important accounts with a good password - especially your email. Cyber criminals want to hack into your email to find valuable information about you e.g. bank details, your address, date of birth, along with the details of all your other online accounts. By having a strong password for your email – one that you don't re-use anywhere else - this will ensure that a cyber criminal who successfully hacks your email won't also be able to log into your bank account. 

  1. Turn on two-factor authentication (2FA)

To secure any online account even further you can turn on an extra layer of protection called two-factor authentication (2FA). 2FA is a way for the service you're using to double check that you really are the person you claim to be when logging in, e.g. by sending a security code to your mobile phone, this ensures that any cyber criminals – even those with your password - still can’t access your account as they won't have this "second factor".

  1. Use a password manager

Having separate passwords is all well and good, but how do you remember them all? Use a password manager. This could just be the one built into your internet browser and often into your device (e.g. your smartphone or tablet), or a specific programme like **** If your browser or device is up to date, and you're not sharing your device with anyone else, then it is safe to tick the box and let your device remember your password saving you having to re-enter your password every time you log in.

  1. Stay Alert

Be cautious that some of the emails or texts you receive about amazing offers may contain links to fake websites, designed to steal your money and personal details. Be particularly cautious of links in an email or text message. Whilst not all links are bad, it's good practice to check by typing the shop’s website address manually into the address bar of your browser or to find the website through your search engine (e.g. Google). Stick to shopping on sites that you trust and remember to report phishing emails to Action Fraud or hit the Spam or Report button within your email account.

  1. Don't give away too much away

You should never have to give out your mother’s maiden name or the name of your primary school to buy something. Whilst there’s some obvious details that an online store will need i.e. your address and your bank details, be wary if they ask for details that are not required for your purchase. Only ever fill in the mandatory details of forms (usually marked with an asterisk*) when buying online and, if you can avoid it, don’t create an account on a new site unless you’re going to use that site a lot in the future. Most sites will allow you to checkout as a guest to make your purchase.

  1. Safer Online Payment Methods

Using a credit card is generally regarded as one of the safest way to pay online, as the money doesn’t come straight out of your bank account, adding an extra layer of protection should you quickly realise you’ve fallen victim to a scam. Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act also means credit card companies are liable if you don’t receive the goods and services paid for if the payment is between £100 and £30,000.  If you choose to use Paypal, whilst a quick and easy way to pay - and does offer ‘buyer protection’ covering misdescriptions or misdelivery - please remember it doesn’t offer the same legal protection as your credit card, even if you connect your credit card to your account. Always be very wary of bank transfers!

  1. Trust Your Instinct and Act Fast

Sometimes, things can still go wrong, no matter how much care you take. We're all human, and some scams are incredibly sophisticated.  That said, sometimes you'll just get the feeling that something isn't right – perhaps the site is asking you for too much information or happens to be located in a country far, far away. If this is the case it’s important to take action immediately:

  1. Note down the website address.
  2. Close down your internet browser
  3. Report the details to Action Fraud
  4. Contact your bank for advice
  5. Keep an eye on your bank transactions

After sales care

After buying, you should remain on your guard. You should always be vigilant for any suspicious activity on your bank account. Sometimes a very small unidentifiable transaction on your bank statement can be the first sign that your account has been hacked. Notify your bank immediately if something looks suspicious.

Happy (bargain) hunting!

I really hope these tips will help you avoid the scammers and get all the Christmas bargains you're wishing for.

Please share these tips with your family and friends, particularly those who might be a bit less savvy than yourself. We need to help each other to beat the scammers.

If you're concerned about your cyber security or online scammers, please get in touch with Barry Maxey on 07469850632 or email barry.maxey@armstrongwatson.co.uk.

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