It’s that time again, Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping deals have already started. What used to be just one day, or one weekend seems to be starting earlier and earlier each year. What once saw people rushing to the shops to grab a tv for half price or waking up at the crack of dawn to be the first in a queue at Primark (but it’s already so cheap!?) now sees people moving their attention online. Even pre-pandemic we were already seeing a shift and unsurprisingly, as shopping from the comfort of your own home (or even bed) avoiding the crowds, is much more appealing. There is however one drawback, cyber criminals can only prey on you online. Here’s some tips on how to stay safe online over the festive period and beyond.

1. Be extra vigilant for phishing emails

Phishing emails are a way of scammers to get your personal information, usually by asking you to click a link in an email and entering your card details or memorable question answers. Around this time of year, the incidences of these phishing emails usually goes up and quite often take the form of fake delivery company emails. With more people shopping online for Christmas, the chances of cyber criminals emailing you when you are expecting a delivery are high. Another tactic is to jump on the Black Friday bandwagon and offer recipients ridiculous, too-good-to-be-true, deals. Be extra vigilant. Don’t be caught out by emails asking you to act fast! or don’t miss out! Whilst a lot of these might be legitimate, there could be a dangerous one hidden in the mix. If something seems too good to be true it usually is.

2. Look out for HTTPS

Did you know nearly 30% of websites still haven’t moved to https from http? The added s stands for secure and means that the information transmitted between the server (the website) and the client (the browser) is encrypted. Websites that are using https, will show a padlock in the browser address bar to show you the security of the page. If you don’t see this on a website that you’re looking to buy from we strongly recommend you don’t! The payment details you enter are at higher risk of being stolen.

3. Avoid shopping on public WiFi

With shopping from your mobile so simple, many of us may find ourselves idly browsing for Christmas gifts whenever we get a spare moment. On the bus on the way home from work, when waiting for a friend at a bar or whilst enjoying a coffee at the local café. How often do you log in to the public WiFi? Or does your phone automatically connect to it? We strongly recommend not using public WiFi, especially for online shopping because hackers can position themselves between you and the connection point and steal your data.

4. Don’t trust social media giveaways

Not only is Social Engineering a thing, scammers also use fake giveaways to trick people. While they happen all year round, they often ramp up over the Christmas period where people are spending more and are looking for opportunities to save money. We recently saw a Christmas giveaway on Facebook claiming to be from Sainsbury’s.

I mean who wouldn’t want to win a whole Christmas dinner!? A few things to note on this, if you click the ‘Sainsbury’s-uk’ profile you’ll see this page is very new and has no other posts – first red flag. Second red flag – on closer inspection one of the images is showing Morrisons branded food, and the other Asda. There’s no way that the real Sainsbury’s would give this kind of promotion to their competitors. The majority of these giveaways are fake, and by doing some investigation you will be able to spot this. Is the chance of winning a Christmas dinner worth being a victim of fraud?

All of these tips apply all year round, but we urge you to be particularly careful around this time of year where cyber criminals are taking advantage of people’s increased online shopping habits.