As the holiday season approaches, some people choose to avoid the crowds and do their shopping online. But even those who dodge other shoppers and stay home have other risks to consider, such as online threats that can put people’s personal and financial information in danger.
The Office of the Chief Information Officer recently shared a list of security tips for online shopping from OUCH!, a monthly security awareness newsletter, for this busy time of year.
Gary Clark, director of IT risk management for the OCIO, said that these tips are important to look at because it is very easy to be tricked by scammers.
“They do a lot of different things,” Clark said. “They’ll use the Black Friday or Cyber Monday specials as an opportunity to send out phishing emails with special offers and great deals. People see a deal and they click on the link, and that’s when bad things start to happen.”
Clark said that phishing is when scammers send out a message via email or text message to entice a the receiver to do something or take an action for a deal.
“They’ll tell people to click on the link and it will take them to a site that looks legitimate, but it’s not,” Clark said. “So they end up giving their credit card information thinking that they’re getting this great deal on a product, but they actually aren’t.”
Clark also said that it’s possible for people to get hacked just by being on a public wireless network.
“They know that people are in coffee shops or cafés because they have free Wi-Fi. You always have to be careful and make sure you’re on a secure network,” Clark said. “If you’re shopping and not on a secure network, you can get compromised pretty easily.”
Kelly Kavanaugh, a third-year in marketing, said that she does practically all of her holiday shopping online.
“I usually only shop at a few stores that I like or my family likes for the holidays,” she said. “I feel like I can trust the websites I use because I’ve bought things from them all before and had no issues.”
Kavanaugh said that she has stumbled upon strange-looking websites while shopping before and didn’t try to buy anything because they looked odd.
There are many easy ways that people can stay vigilant when online shopping, according to Clark and the OUCH! newsletter.
“Be suspicious. When you get something that’s too good to be true, assume that it probably is,” Clark said. “If you look at those kind of emails, you’ll usually find something strange.”
Clark said that hackers might slightly change the URL of their fake website to resemble an actual, trusted website.
It is also important to view bank statements regularly to make sure only authorized people are making purchases on cards.
“Don’t use your debit card ever when you make online transactions. You at least have some protection with credit cards,” Clark said. “If your bank allows you to set up alerts when you make a purchase, those are really good features to use.”
Clark said that the bottom line is that it’s important to be cautious no matter where you are shopping because anyone’s information can be compromised online.
“Everybody is susceptible across the board. It’s really based on education, and I don’t mean formal education,” Clark said. “Educating yourself on these types of attacks and being suspicious is what’s really important.”