Every year, the cultural phenomenon that is Black Friday and Cyber Monday rolls around. Wallets (and sometimes punches) are thrown in all different directions, trying to get the best deals for Christmas gifts. Most people get through it unscathed, but high stakes, time constraints, and emotions make for a vulnerable shopper.
This unstable atmosphere creates the perfect opportunity for hackers to take advantage of both you and the stores you shop at. Let’s set the scene- say you shopped all day on Black Friday. Out of the 10 stores you bought gifts at, one of them had a compromised Point of Sale system (the machine you swipe your card in). Once you swipe your card- your credit card information, your name, and other personally identifiable information is taken by the hacker. They may take some money from your account, but that’s not the worst that could happen. Hackers can do things like open accounts in your name- negatively affecting your credit score- and sell your information on the dark web.
Maybe this seems far fetched to you- nearly everyone has a “that won’t happen to me” mentality, but it literally just happened to Macy’s. Their online checkout pages had malicious code that harvested customer’s payment information. It happened to Target a few years ago with millions of victims. And it happens to smaller businesses far more often.
The point isn’t to scare you though- we’re here to help, so we created a list of ways to beef up your cyber smarts while shopping this holiday season.
1. Don’t make your retail account passwords the same as every other login. If your Old Navy login is the same as your bank login, you’ll be in trouble. An astounding amount of people use the same passwords for every account- and criminals know that- and they’ll try to get into your more important accounts.
2. Monitor your credit and debit card activity to check for unauthorized purchases.
Check your card activity for suspicious purchases once or twice a week. Report the ones that seem out of the ordinary.
3. Freeze your credit score to block hackers from making hard inquiry’s and opening accounts in your name. Freezing your credit score doesn’t keep your score from going up or down, and there’s no penalties. It prevents all hard inquiry’s on your account in the case of identity theft or exorbitant purchases.
4. If shopping online, make sure that all checkout and payment pages are SSL certified. SSL certifications ensure that your credit card and personal information are encrypted (secured) throughout the duration of the transaction from beginning to end. If compliant, a website’s payment page will have a SSL secure badge somewhere to show that they are safe to use, like the example on the right.
5. Use your credit card instead of your debit card. While they function the same, there are less protections with debit cards as there are with credit cards. Check with your bank for specifics, but typically, a credit card is more suited for online purchases and should you become a victim, the credit card companies will be more flexible with the fraudulent purchases and the assistance they offer.
Cyber threats like these are increasingly more common, but you don’t have to avoid online or in store shopping because of hackers. Keep these tips in mind and keep your eyes and ears peeled. Common sense goes a long way.