Top 5 Cyber Threats for Online Shoppers in Peak Season

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As more consumers turn to online shopping, it is important to know and avoid the top five cyber threats.

Everyone knows that online holiday shopping peaks the weekend following Thanksgiving, but there are other peak periods throughout the year when e-commerce shoppers are at risk of the top five cyber threats. It is important to know and avoid these threats during online shopping peak seasons all throughout the year. As online retailers seek to draw customers and make shopping for deals easier than ever, cyber thieves continue to devise ways to take advantage of online shoppers. Threats can include just about anything from the ever-popular phishing scams to the notorious nefarious downloads, all of which make it increasingly important for consumers to know the scams used by cyber criminals and to work to avoid them. Here are the top five cyber threats for online shoppers in all shopping seasons and ways to avoid the threats.

  • Phishing Schemes. Phishing schemes and scams have been around for years. Cyber criminals realize that during peak sales times, throughout the year, everyone is looking for the best deal on the hottest must-have items, thus, making peak season the optimal time to engage in phishing. Basically, phishing scams use fraudulent emails to draw you into their malevolent website or get you to innocently click and install their malware on your computer in order to steal your personal information. Phishing emails often look remarkably like the ‘real thing’ and cause unsuspecting online shoppers to fall victim to the tune of 556 million victims annually. To avoid falling into the cyber thieves’ phishing net, consumers should avoid clicking on any suspect email links and, in case of accidental clicks, be sure to utilize strong PC virus protection gear to keep your information safe.
  • Fraudulent Websites. Fraudulent websites are often the destination of those suspicious phishing emails trying to lure you into a false sense of security with their realistic look. Phishing is not the only bait; ads can link you to fake sites with malicious intent, as can replica sites that mimic true e-commerce sites. Once on the fraudulent site, cyber criminals hope you will deliver your personal information, including credit card numbers, or that your browsing on their site will permit them to download their malware on your system. In order to avoid the consequences of visiting disreputable websites, remember to not click on sites you aren’t sure you can trust, and always look for the padlock and “https:” in the URL to help determine a secure site and a trustworthy transaction. Of course, using strong PC virus protection gear and automatic software updates will also help you keep trouble at bay.
  • Fake Advertising. Too-good-to-be-true false advertising works hand-in-hand with phishing schemes and fraudulent nefarious e-commerce websites. Cyber criminals often utilize the ‘we have the best/lowest/unbeatable pricing on the must have toy or electronic device of the shopping season’ to attract and entice online shoppers. Once the advertisement is clicked, your computer is infected with their malware or with the latest man-in-the-browser scam that allows the cybercriminal to steal your login information, your passwords, and any other information you may enter on the site. The safety tip against this cyber threat is not to click on any ad that seems even somewhat suspicious and, if you have difficulty resisting the temptation, be sure your virus protection is up-to-date.
  • Unbelievable Giveaways. Unbelievable giveaways are often seen in pop-up advertising and appeal to online shoppers as a chance to get something for nothing. This cyber threat presents as the ‘enter here to win whatever this season’s hot shopping item you can’t live without is’ technique and promises you a chance to win if you will just click and enter your personal information for the opportunity. Before you click, let common sense prevail and be careful what you share. This is also a good place to point out that you should never share password information and you should always use good password practices.
  • Free Downloads. Free downloads give cyber criminals great opportunities to deliver drive-by-downloads of malicious malware to your computer or mobile device. The deceitful ‘free’ downloads may appear in an email, on social media, or virtually anywhere on the web and seem to be harmless enough – in the form of a free e-card, screensaver, or ringtone. Remember the first rule, don’t click on dubious links. Before you click ask yourself whether it is worth having your identity or credit card information stolen for a free ringtone?

Cyber threats for online shoppers are on the rise with the average loss per victim in 2013 twice as high as 2012. This fact alone makes it more important than ever before for online shoppers to be aware of the cyber threats from cyber thieves seeking to do harm. Cyber threats can be found anywhere that one can click; but with a good measure of common sense, a bit of thought before clicking, and strong PC protection gear, even the most avid online shopper can keep themselves and their personal information safe during peak shopping seasons and all year long!

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